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Alcohol creates more than just hangover in young brains

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Alcohol creates more than just hangover in young brains

Aina Katsikas, Reporter

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Ten percent of 12 year olds have tried alcohol. That number doubles at 13 years and reaches 50 percent by age 15.

Chronic drinking can cause serious long-term, irreparable damage to a young developing brain.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, alcohol slows down the central nervous system, causing the person to think and speak more slowly than at the normal rate.

Alcohol also impacts the frontal lobes of the brain, the area which produces ideas and exhibits self-control. Alcohol suppresses all of this action, resulting in a lack of inhibition and self-control.

The results of a study done by the University of California at San Diego showed marked differences between adolescents who drink significantly and those who don’t.

Neuroscientist Susan Tapert wanted to know if teens who consume excessive amounts of alcohol had damaged nerve tissues in their brains.

“First of all, the adolescent brain is still undergoing several maturational processes that render it more vulnerable to some of the effects of substances,” Tapert said.

Tapert’s study confirmed that binge drinkers, or teens having four or five drinks at one sitting two or three times a month, did poorly on thinking and memory exams

Chronic binge drinking, such as once a week or a few times a month, has great potential to ruin a young brain compared to a mature one older than 21 years old.

Brain researcher Ron Dahl at the University of Pittsburgh observed that adolescents have a higher tolerance for the immediate side-effects of drinking, such as nausea, “which makes it easier to consume higher amounts and enjoy some of the positive aspects,” Dahl says. “But, of course, that also creates a liability for the spiral of addiction and binge use of these substances.”

Alcohol abuse and binge-drinking at a young age can prompt alcoholism in later years.

For Hawaii, the binge drinking rate among adults is about 1.3 times higher than the national average, putting many locals in significant danger of lifelong alcoholism.

“Binge drinking is going to get worse before it gets better,” Dr. Mark Mycky,  a toxicologist at Boston Medical Center, said.

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Alcohol creates more than just hangover in young brains