The transition from adolescence to adulthood is vital for the brain’s development. Concerningly, this age group is one of the most associated with engagement in binge drinking and heavy drinking. Binge drinking is occasionally consuming up to five drinks within a short period, leading to accelerated intoxication. Heavy drinking is engaging in binge drinking behavior over five times per month. A study published by the National Institute of Biotechnology Information found that heavy alcohol use among adolescents can slow the brain’s rate of growth.
The study utilized MRI’s of developmental changes in the brain from late adolescence to early adulthood. To conduct their research, they studied 71 macaque monkeys that voluntarily consumed alcohol or ethanol located at the Oregon National Primate Research Center. By using primates instead of self-reporting adolescents, the measures of the research focused on alcohol drinking and impaired brain growth exclusively. The results revealed that heavy alcohol use reduced the rate of brain growth by 0.25 milliliters per year, while brain volume typically increases by almost 0.5 ml per year. Therefore, developmental brain volume changes during late adolescence to young adulthood in monkeys become negatively altered by excessive alcohol use. Conclusively, chronic alcohol use and intoxication reduce the growth rates of the brain, its cerebral white matter, and the subcortical thalamus. Cerebral white matter connects various areas of gray matter of the brain, therefore carrying nerve impulses between neurons. The subcortical thalamus acts as a relay center between the brainstem and cerebrum. Consequently, it is in charge of a variety of bodily functions, such as regulating consciousness and sleep, as well as relaying sensory and motor signals.
The study’s findings help to validate previous research examining the effect of alcohol use on brain development in people. It also revealed a decrease in the volume of separate brain areas due to the voluntary consumption of alcohol. Since adolescence is the period in which the brain is being adjusted to prepare for adult responsibilities, it is crucial to understand if exposure to alcohol during this age is altering future learning abilities.
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Alcohol consumption permeates our society. Engaging in risky behaviors such as binge drinking, or continuous heavy drinking severely impacts brain growth and function. Adolescents whose brains are developing and growing are at a higher risk of slowing that growth through alcohol use. Recovery is possible, and there is hope. At Fort Worth Recovery, we offer many alcohol addiction treatment programs, including a female-only adolescent program to support young women on their road to recovery. We seek to inspire clients to face their challenges and foster hope for their future. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, call us today at 844.332.1807 or visit us online.