Binge drinking increases impulsive behavior in males

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

WASHINGTON - A new study has found that adolescents into binge drinking are more likely to engage in risk-taking behavior.

It is already known that impulsive behavior is caused by acute ingestion of alcohol, but new finding suggests that it may increase the level over a time.

The researchers believe that adolescence is also a time when many individuals begin to drink, which can have serious effects on brain development.

New research investigating impulsive behavior in male adolescents has indicated that there is a significant trend regarding the amount of alcohol an individual ingests, and changes in levels of impulsive behavior that follow.

“Heavy alcohol use in adolescence may lead to alterations in brain structure and function that reduce behavioral (impulse) control, which could, in turn, promote further heavy drinking. We chose boys because they tend to drink heavier than girls during adolescence, and adolescent boys generally exhibit less impulse control than adolescent girls,” said the first author of the study, Helene R. White, professor of sociology at the Center of Alcohol Studies at Rutgers University.

The study involved annually following more than 500 first grade boys from the City of Pittsburgh public schools until age 20, with another follow up four to five years later.

The researchers used questionnaires and interviews to obtain data regarding the subject’s drinking and impulsive behavior, so they could determine if there was a correlation between the two.

These results showed that for adolescent boys exhibiting moderate levels of impulsive behavior, as opposed to those in the low or high groups, there was a significant increase in impulsive behavior when they engaged in heavy drinking the previous year.

A doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at the University of Missouri, Andrew Littlefield said, “These studies highlight the importance of prevention. Decreasing heavy drinking during adolescence may decrease impulsivity by preventing damage to crucial brain areas.”

Findings also suggested that adolescents who stopped heavy drinking later “rebounded” to lower levels of impulsivity. Therefore, decreasing drinking during adolescence could result in improved self-control at later ages.

The results will be published in the February 2011 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research and are currently available at Early View. (ANI)

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