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

INTRODUCTION: Energy drinks are popular beverages that are supposed to counteract sleepiness, increase energy, maintain alertness and reduce symptoms of hangover. Cognitive enhancing seems to be related to many compounds such as caffeine, taurine and vitamins. Currently, users mostly combine psychostimulant effects of energy drinks to counteract sedative effects of alcohol. However, recent literature suggests that this combination conducts to feel less intoxicated but still impaired. The goal of the present article is to review cognitive impact and subjective awareness in case of caffeinated alcoholic beverage (CAB) intoxication.

METHOD: PubMed (January 1960 to March 2016) database was searched using the following terms: cognitive impairments, alcohol, energy drinks; cognition, alcohol, caffeine.

RESULTS: 99 papers were found but only 12 randomized controlled studies which explored cognitive disorders and subjective awareness associated with acute CAB or AED (alcohol associated with energy drinks) intoxication were included.

DISCUSSION: The present literature review confirmed that energy drinks might counteract some cognitive deficits and adverse effects of alcohol i.e. dry mouth, fatigue, headache, weakness, and perception of intoxication due to alcohol alone. This effect depends on alcohol limb but disappears when the complexity of the task increases, when driving for example. Moreover, studies clearly showed that CAB/AEDs increase impulsivity which conducts to an overconsumption of alcohol and enhanced motivation to drink compared to alcohol alone, potentiating the risk of developing addictive behaviors. This is a huge problem in adolescents with high impulsivity and immature decision making processes.

CONCLUSION: Although energy drinks counteract some cognitive deficits due to alcohol alone, their association promotes the risk of developing alcohol addiction. As a consequence, it is necessary to better understand the neurobiological mechanisms underlying these interactions in order to better prevent the development of alcohol dependence.

Published in General Health
Thursday, 22 June 2017 13:32

Preventing Binge Drinking in Adolescents

BACKGROUND: In a survey taken in Germany in 2015, 14.1% of the 12- to 17-year-olds surveyed had practiced binge drinking at least once in the preceding 30 days. The school program "Klar bleiben" ("Keep a Clear Head") was designed for and implemented among 10th graders. The participants committed themselves to abstain from binge drinking for 9 weeks. We studied whether this intervention influenced the frequency and intensity of binge drinking.

METHODS: This cluster-randomized controlled trial was carried out in 196 classes of 61 schools, with a total of 4163 participants with a mean age of 15.6 years (standard deviation 0.73 years). Data were collected by questionnaire in late 2015, before the intervention and again six months later. The primary endpoints were the frequency of consumption of at least 4 or 5 alcoholic drinks (for girls and boys, respectively) and the typical quantity consumed. This trial was registered in the German Clinical Trials Registry (Deutsches Register Klinischer Studien, DRKS) with the DRKS ID number DRKS00009424.

RESULTS: At the beginning of the trial, there was no difference between the intervention group and the control group with respect to the primary endpoints. After the intervention, differences were found among participants who had consumed alcohol before the trial (73.2% of the overall sample): binge drinking at least once in the preceding month was reported by 49.4% of the control group and by 44.2% in the intervention group (p = 0.028). The mean number of alcoholic drinks consumed in each drinking episode was 5.20 in the control group and 5.01 in the intervention group (p = 0.047).

CONCLUSION: The intervention was effective only in the large subgroup of adolescents who had previously consumed alcohol: they drank alcohol less often and in smaller amounts than their counterparts in the control group.

Published in Drinking Patterns

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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