Introduction: Adolescence and young adulthood are periods of continued biological and psychosocial maturation. Thus, there may be deleterious effects of consuming large quantities of alcohol on neural development and associated cognition during this time. The purpose of this mini review is to highlight neuroimaging research that has specifically examined the effects of binge and heavy drinking on adolescent and young adult brain structure and function.

Methods: We review cross-sectional and longitudinal studies of young binge and heavy drinkers that have examined brain structure (e.g., gray and white matter volume, cortical thickness, white matter microstructure) and investigated brain response using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

Results: Binge and heavy-drinking adolescents and young adults have systematically thinner and lower volume in prefrontal cortex and cerebellar regions, and attenuated white matter development. They also show elevated brain activity in fronto-parietal regions during working memory, verbal learning, and inhibitory control tasks. In response to alcohol cues, relative to controls or light-drinking individuals, binge and heavy drinkers show increased neural response mainly in mesocorticolimbic regions, including the striatum, anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), hippocampus, and amygdala. Mixed findings are present in risky decision-making tasks, which could be due to large variation in task design and analysis.

Conclusions: These findings suggest altered neural structure and activity in binge and heavy-drinking youth may be related to the neurotoxic effects of consuming alcohol in large quantities during a highly plastic neurodevelopmental period, which could result in neural reorganization, and increased risk for developing an alcohol use disorder (AUD).

Published in Drinking Patterns

The aim of this analysis is to examine long-term trends in alcohol consumption and associations with lagged data on specific types of cancer mortality, and indicate policy implications. Data on per capita annual sales of pure alcohol; mortality for three alcohol-related cancers - larynx, esophageal, and lip, oral cavity, and pharynx; and per capita consumption of tobacco products were extracted at the country level. The Unobservable Components Model was used for this time-series analysis to examine the temporal association between alcohol consumption and cancer mortality, using lagged data, from 17 countries. Statistically significant associations were observed between alcohol sales and cancer mortality, in the majority of countries examined, which remained after controlling for tobacco use (P<0.05). Significant associations were observed in countries with increasing, decreasing, or stable trends in alcohol consumption and corresponding lagged trends in alcohol-related cancer mortality. Curtailing overall consumption has potential benefits in reducing a number of harms from alcohol, including cancer mortality. Future research and surveillance are needed to investigate, monitor, and quantify the impact of alcohol control policies on trends in cancer mortality.

Published in Cancer

OBJECTIVE: To examine outcomes among boys and girls that are associated with prenatal alcohol exposure.

METHODS: Boys and girls with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) and randomly-selected controls were compared on a variety of physical and neurobehavioral traits.

RESULTS: Sex ratios indicated that heavy maternal binge drinking may have significantly diminished viability to birth and survival of boys postpartum more than girls by age seven. Case control comparisons of a variety of physical and neurobehavioral traits at age seven indicate that both sexes were affected similarly for a majority of variables. However, alcohol-exposed girls had significantly more dysmorphology overall than boys and performed significantly worse on non-verbal IQ tests than males. A three-step sequential regression analysis, controlling for multiple covariates, further indicated that dysmorphology among girls was significantly more associated with five maternal drinking variables and three distal maternal risk factors. However, the overall model, which included five associated neurobehavioral measures at step three, was not significant (p=0.09, two-tailed test). A separate sequential logistic regression analysis of predictors of a FASD diagnosis, however, indicated significantly more negative outcomes overall for girls than boys (Nagelkerke R2=0.42 for boys and 0.54 for girls, z=-2.9, p=0.004).

CONCLUSION: Boys and girls had mostly similar outcomes when prenatal alcohol exposure was linked to poor physical and neurocognitive development. Nevertheless, sex ratios implicate lower viability and survival of males by first grade, and girls have more dysmorphology and neurocognitive impairment than boys resulting in a higher probability of a FASD diagnosis.

Published in Pregnant Women

BACKGROUND: Existing research on parental supply of alcohol analyses the effects of self-reported parental supply on adolescent drinking using individual level data. This study examined the contextual effect of parental supply of alcohol on adolescent alcohol use by examining the association between the prevalence of parental supply in each Australian state and adolescent alcohol use using a multilevel analytic framework.

METHODS: Adolescent samples (Age: 12-17) were drawn from the four National Drug Strategy Household Surveys (2004, 2007, 2010 and 2013; N = 6803). The prevalence of parental supply of alcohol, defined as the weighted percentage of sample who reported obtaining alcohol from their parents, was estimated in each state and territory across the four surveys. Three multilevel logistic regressions were used to examine the contextual effects of parental supply prevalence on adolescents' alcohol use in the past 12 months, weekly drinking and heavy drinking.

RESULTS: Overall, adolescents' rates of past 12 months alcohol use, heavy drinking and weekly drinking between 2004 and 2013 were 40.1, 14.4 and 6.4% respectively. The prevalence of parental supply was significantly associated with past 12 months alcohol use (OR = 1.06, p < .001) and heavy drinking (OR = 1.04, p < .001) but not with weekly drinking (OR = 1.03, p = .189). The results were adjusted for gender, age, socio-economic index for area, place of birth, survey year and prevalence of peer supply.

CONCLUSION: A high prevalence of parental supply in a region was associated with heavier adolescent drinking, regardless of whether adolescents primarily obtained their alcohol from their own parents.

Published in Drinking Patterns

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