Teens and binge drinking ain’t nothing new–but understanding the ways in which heavy drinking affects teenage females is.  So says a recent study looking into the effects of alcohol on the teen brain.  Researcher at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and Stanford University found that binge drinking–four or more drinks for women, and five or more for men–hits the brains of teenage girls harder than it does teen boys.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies were conducted on 95 teen volunteers in the San Diego area, including 40 binge drinkers and 55 controls.  The volunteers self-reported how much and how often they had tied one on in their lifetime, and how much alcohol they’d consumed in the three months prior to the study.

The teens performed a spatial working memory task while the researchers observed brain activation using fMRI. Spatial working memory is the ability to perceive the space around you and then remember and work with that information, which could affect such tasks as driving, sports, and using a map.  Previous studies have shown spatial working memory to be impaired by heavy drinking.

The results showed eight different regions of the brain in teenage girls that were affected by the heavy drinking…but here’s the kicker: The detrimental cognitive effects lasted well beyond the study period.

“Long after a young person–middle school to college–enjoys recovery from a hang-over, this study shows that risk to cognitive and brain functions endures,” said Edith Sullivan, a professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine. 

Comparatively, teen boys had only four regions of the brain related to spatial activity affected by binge drinking.  These results showed that developing girls are more susceptible to neurological effects of alcohol. Some potential reasons are that girls’ brains develop two years ahead boys, hormonal differences, and the lowered amount of alcohol needed to affect women due to slower rates of metabolism, higher body fat ratios, and lower body weight.

These are frightening results since 3 in 10 American teens in the final year of high school reported binge drinking in the past month.  Especially scary for teen girls and their parents.  As peer pressure increases, so do the risks young ladies take by hitting the bottle hard.  And because of the lingering effects, the detriments may affect their studies, their safety and their health.

No easy answer to this problem as we were all young once.  My personal feeling is that I feel immense gratitude for the numerous stories on the nightly news of teen accidents, celebrity overdoses and drunken car crashes, teen sexting screw-ups, and other SNAFUs.  It’s what I’ll use, hopefully, to deter my own daughters from taking up teen binge drinking.  But the truth is you never know what they’re going to do.  I’ll mention these results to my girls when the time comes, and just hope they have other ways of expressing their youthful energy.

3 Responses to Teen Girls Dumbed Down by Binge Drinking

  1. sharlene says:

    I believe the facts stated because this is a study conducted by professionals and they are very liable. Do you want to dumb down your teens? Well, I don’t want that. That is why I will let them read this article for them to be aware. I do hope that they will respond positively regarding alcohol drinking.

  2. Alex says:

    If I had kids or was the guardian of them, I wouldn’t allow them to have a cell or satellite phone until they were of age, that way they can make their own decisions based on more logic than emotional need.

    Also, I would disallow them on social networks, it’s a time waster for most of us but kids really get into some trouble on those or cause trouble for that matter. Even chat applications would be banned, likewise age appropriate online games would only be allowed at certain times of the day and after their homework is done.

    Okay, so I am scrooge when it comes to that but I spent a lot of time on bulletin board systems and chat systems when I was a kid and could have gotten in some serious scrapes or trouble when I was a kid. I just don’t want them repeating those mistakes nor give them access to do so, well, until they have their head screwed on straight that is.

    Also, when meeting their friends, I would call and talk with their parents, would like to meet them, to make sure their not drug addicts or alcohols or some other degenerate type of person. Those types of people don’t make good parents and often times put their kids and the kid’s friends in dire circumstances.

    Some of the reasons for why society is going down hill is because many parents these days, aren’t being real / good “parents” they don’t do what their own mothers and fathers did to instill good family values and manners at home or in public, it’s just not being done anymore, well, okay, some people still do it but that should be the norm.

  3. Alex says:

    Oops, spelling error, “alcohols” should be “alcoholics”. My apologies.

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