Effects of Drinking in Young Adults Predict Future Alcohol Problems

A young adult’s response to alcohol may predict drinking problems later in life, a new study suggests. Researchers at the University of Chicago studied 200 volunteers ages 21 to 35 who were classified as light or heavy drinkers. HealthDay reports that in heavy drinkers, the researchers observed a greater sensitivity to the rewarding and stimulating effects of alcohol. Light drinkers, in contrast, reported more sluggishness and sedation from drinking.

Both groups of drinkers had similar blood alcohol concentration curves, HealthDay reports. The study author, Andrea King, told HealthDay the findings show that men of similar weight can drink the same dose of alcohol, but their brains can respond very differently.

After two years, the heavy drinkers fell into three groups: those who cut back on binge drinking, those who continued binge drinking at a moderate or high frequency and those who increased their binge drinking. Those in the latter group drank more alcohol, drank more often, had more alcohol-related problems and were more likely to meet criteria for alcohol abuse or dependence.

The researchers said that because the study participants, who had worsened their binge drinking during the two years after the study, were more likely to have experienced positive effects of alcohol initially, it may be possible to predict someone’s future drinking behavior and provide intervention earlier. The study appears in the Archives of General Psychiatry

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