Objective: To estimate the prevalence of alcohol consumption during pregnancy among the general population of Latin America and the Caribbean, by country, in 2012.

Methods: Three steps were taken: a comprehensive, systematic literature search; meta-analyses, assuming a random-effects model for countries with published studies; and regression modelling (data prediction) for countries with either no published studies or too few to obtain an estimate.

Results: Based on 24 existing studies, the pooled prevalence of alcohol consumption during pregnancy among the general population was estimated for Brazil (15.2%; 95% confidence interval [95%CI]: 10.4%-20.8%) and Mexico (1.2%; 95%CI: 0.0%-2.7%). The prevalence of alcohol consumption during pregnancy among the general population was predicted for 31 countries and ranged from 4.8% (95%CI: 4.2%-5.4%) in Cuba to 23.3% (95%CI: 20.1%-26.5%) in Grenada.

Conclusions: Greater prevention efforts and measures are needed in the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean to prevent pregnant women from consuming alcohol during pregnancy and decrease the rates of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Additional high quality studies on the prevalence of alcohol consumption during pregnancy in Latin America and the Caribbean are also needed.

Published in Pregnant Women

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

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

OBJECTIVE: Using a national sample of young adults, this study identified latent classes of alcohol use including high-intensity drinking (10+ drinks) from ages 18 to 25/26, and explored associations between time-invariant covariates measured at age 18 and class membership.

METHOD: Longitudinal data from the national Monitoring the Future study were available for 1078 individuals (51% female) first surveyed as 12th grade students in 2005-2008, and followed through modal age 25/26. Repeated measures latent class analysis was used to identify latent classes based on self-reported alcohol use: no past 30-day drinking, 1-9 drinks per occasion in the past 2weeks, and 10+ drinks per occasion.

RESULTS: Four latent classes of alcohol use from ages 18 to 25/26 were identified: (1) Non-Drinkers (21%); (2) Legal Non-High-Intensity Drinkers (23%); (3) Persistent Non-High-Intensity Drinkers (40%); and (4) High-Intensity Drinkers (16%). Membership in the High-Intensity Drinkers class was characterized by higher than average probabilities of high-intensity drinking at all ages, with the probability of high-intensity drinking increasing between ages 18 and 21/22. Both gender and race/ethnicity significantly differentiated class membership, whereas neither parental education (a proxy for socioeconomic status) nor college plans at 12th grade showed significant associations.

CONCLUSIONS: More than one in seven individuals who were seniors in high school experienced a long-term pattern of high-intensity drinking lasting into middle young adulthood. Young adult high-intensity drinking is often preceded by high-intensity drinking in high school, suggesting the importance of screening and prevention for high-intensity drinking during adolescence.

Published in Drinking Patterns
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