Teen Drinkers Risk Permanent Brain Damage


Posted on 27th January 2010 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

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I always chuckle, then sigh, when some reporter or researcher thinks they have discovered a “new” hazard to brain health. I heard last year that Traumatic Brain Injury was a new injury, stemming from Iraq. Not. Now the latest in this long line of “discoveries” is that drinking can cause brain damage. How do you say: Duh?

Still, it is good to remind teens and parents of what a recent study by the University of California, San Diego, found, NPR reported Monday.

In its online story, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=122765890&ps;=cprs, NPR reports that the school compared brain scans of teens who drank heavily to those that don’t.

The youths who drank had damaged nerve tissue, so-called “white matter” in their brains. That kind of damage can lead to shortening a boy’s attention span and negatively impact a girl’s comprehension and interpretation of visual information, NPR said.

(What are they serious? Like it wouldn’t affect a girl’s attention span to damage the electrical connections within the brain, or negatively impact a boy’s comprehensions? )

During teen years, certain areas of the brain are still forming and are more vulnerable to drugs and alcohol, which is why youths risk more than a hangover by drinking.

The study found that binge drinkers – having four or five drinks at a time, two or three times a month, performed worse on memory and cognitive tests than those who didn’t. Academics and alcohol apparently don’t mix. If they think that is “binge drinking”, they have obviously not been outside of their laboratories for a long time. What is perhaps most significant about this study is how little alcohol it took to show a material change in the adolescent brain.

Seriously, alcohol can cause brain damage and the younger the person, the more vulnerable the brain to the effects. But alcohol is far more serious in other ways, such as a cause of serious car wrecks, of addiction, of alcohol poisoning, where true binge drinking – the kind where a person’s blood alcohol reaches .3% or above – can kill. That which can kill, will cause brain damage if it falls short of a fatal dose.

Remember the time when pregnant women still drank?