Teen Binge Drinking Can Mess With Your Brain Long-Term

By May Wilkerson 05/01/15

Researchers at Duke University found that heaving drinking at a young age can have lasting consequences.

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Hitting the bottle hard as a teen may have worse repercussions than a few bad hangovers.

Binge drinking while the brain is still developing could cause lasting cognitive changes that could lead to memory loss and stunt learning in adulthood, according to a new study published this week in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

Researchers from the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University studied the brains of adult rats who, while they were younger, had been exposed to heavy alcohol intake equivalent to episodes of binge drinking in humans.

The researchers found that the rats with hard-partying pasts had brains that were less mature than rats who had not been exposed to booze. This immaturity impacted their ability to learn and retain memories. To make matters worse, these brain changes seemed to put the creatures at higher risk for injury, disease, or trauma.

"It's quite possible that alcohol disrupts the maturation process, which can affect these cognitive functions later on," said lead author Mary-Louise Risher. She also said researchers will continue to explore the impact of binge drinking on brain maturation in further studies.

Binge drinking is defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism as consuming five or more drinks for men and four or more for women in under two hours.

“In the eyes of the law, once people reach the age of 18, they are considered adults, but the brain continues to mature and refine all the way into the mid-20s,” said Risher. “It’s important for young people to know that when they drink heavily during this period of development, there could be changes occurring that have a lasting impact on memory and other cognitive functions.”

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.