Binge Drinking in Teen Years Can Have Long-Term Effects on Brain

Binge drinking during the teen years can have long-lasting effects on the part of the brain involved in emotion, fear and anxiety, researchers have found.

In the journal Translational Psychiatry, the researchers report they examined brain tissue from three groups of people who had died in their mid to late 50s. The first group started drinking heavily before the age of 21; the second group started drinking heavily after age 21; and the third group had no history of alcohol use disorder. The brain tissue of people who started drinking early had 30 to 40 percent less of a protein called BDNF, compared with those with no history of alcohol use disorder.

“BDNF is needed for normal development in the brain and for connections to form between neurons,” researcher Subhash Pandey of the University of Illinois at Chicago, said in a news release. “If levels are lowered due to alcohol exposure, then the brain will not develop normally.”

How to Address Underage Drinking

As a parent, you hold tremendous influence over whether your child decides to drink or not. Be informed and be clear that you disapprove of underage drinking, model health behavior and find opportunities to discuss the dangers of alcohol.

teens clinking beer bottles together