TIME Research

U.S. Teen Trends In Sex, Bullying, Booze and More

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Good news: Today's teens experience notably low rates of bullying, drinking, pregnancy and unprotected sex

The latest statistics on teenagers paint a rosy portrait of American teens. They’re drinking, smoking and bullying less than they used to, and fewer are getting pregnant.

“Adolescence is an inherently risky time,” says Dr. Stephanie Zaza, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) division of adolescent and school health. “They are stretching their wings. We can’t eliminate all risk, but we are seeing overall good trends in all areas.”

Here’s a snapshot on teen behavior, based on recent reports:

Bullying

Recent data from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics showed bullying at school was on the decline. Bullying among kids ages 12 to 18 dropped to 22% in 2013. The rate is lower than the 28-32% that was reported in all other survey years since 2005. Even cyberbullying—the use of electronic services to harass someone—has dropped. Only 6.9% of students reported being cyberbullied in 2013 compared to 9% in 2011.

Zaza adds that bullying has often targeted LGBTQ youth, and with increasing acceptance and major policy changes regarding same-sex marriage in the news, social norms regarding sexuality may be changing too, and that may contribute to less fighting.

Smoking

Teens are smoking less, too. In the last CDC National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), which analyzes health risk behaviors among high school students, revealed that the high school smoking rate had dropped to 15.7%, the lowest recorded level since the survey started in 1991. It meant that the CDC had met its goal of lowering the adolescent smoking rate to under 16% by 2020, several years early.

Zaza says what’s responsible is a combination of widespread public health initiatives and changing social norms. “When you look at excise taxes, smoking bans, quit lines, campaigns and innovations in therapies, you see this amazing trend in adult and youth tobacco use,” says Zaza. “With all of those changes came a really big change in the social norms around smoking.”

Still, data from the CDC suggests that while high schools are smoking fewer cigarettes, e-cigarette use tripled among middle and high schoolers in just one year.

Drinking

The number of students who drink alcohol also dropped. Though it was still high at 35%, teens reported less physical fighting in school, and most students who were sexually active used condoms.

Sex and Babies

National teen pregnancy rates are also at a record low, with recent data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) showing a continuous drop over the last 20 years, with a 10% decline just between 2012 and 2013. It’s unclear what is driving the decrease, but it appears teenagers are less sexually active than they have been in the past, and teens that are sexually active report using some form of birth control.

“There’s no doubt birth control and sex education are the most important factors in reducing unintended teen pregnancy,” Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood said in an email. “Teens are increasingly using IUDs and implants, which are the most reliable methods of birth control.”

America’s teen pregnancy rate is at a record low, but it’s still higher than many developing countries.

Texting While Driving etc.

Zaza says she’s worried about the number of teens who text and drive—41%—as well as the nearly 18% of teens who report using prescription drugs without a prescription.

“I worry about these numbers,” says Zaza, adding that there’s still room for improvement.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

7 Things You Never Knew Were In Your Wine

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Low-alcohol wines are lighter in calories

Sulfites, tannins, resveratrol—if you’ve read anything about wine, you’ve probably come across at least one of these terms. But what does all the fancy verbiage mean for your health? We asked Jim Harbertson, PhD, associate professor of enology (that is, the science of wine) at Washington State University, to decode the lingo commonly found on bottle labels so you know exactly what you’re drinking, and how it affects you, beyond a nice buzz.

Sulfites

What it means:Sulfites are normally added to wine to protect it from oxidation or unwanted microbial growth,” Harbertson says. In other words, they keep wine fresh and prevent it from morphing into vinegar. Sulfites have developed a bad rap for causing allergic reactions like sneezing and headaches, but in reality, only a small portion of the population exhibits a sensitivity or allergy to them. There’s also some indication that they trigger symptoms for asthmatics, but the relationship between worsened asthma symptoms and sulfites isn’t totally clear, Harbertson says. You’ll spot “contains sulfites” on wine bottles because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that labeling when any food contains more than 10 parts per million of sulfites, but for most people, they’re nothing to worry about. Know for sure you’re allergic? Look for the words “sulfite-free” on labels.

Histamine

What it means: The nitrogen-based compound is a common allergen found in foods and can cause an inflammatory response. (It’s also, confusingly, the name for a substance our bodies release when they’re having an allergic reaction.) Histamines sometimes crop up in wines that undergo a second fermentation to smooth out their acidity and texture, Harbertson explains. Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to tell which wines undergo this process and which don’t without checking with the winemaker, though some bottles are now labeled as not undergoing malolactic fermentation, meaning they should be histamine-free, Harbertson says). The good news: “There really isn’t any definitive research that demonstrates that the histamines in wine cause human health problems,” Harbertson says.

Tannins

What it means: You know that dry feeling you get on your tongue after sipping certain kinds of vino? That astringent sensation is caused by tannins, a type of polyphenol that get produced during the winemaking process, mostly from grapes. While these micronutrients may be disease-fighting when consumed in certain forms and foods, when imbibed in wine, “these natural compounds tend to get bound up in salivary proteins and proteins in the human digestive system, so their health benefits are somewhat limited,” Harbertson says. Tannins are most often found in big, full-bodied red wines—look for labels bearing the names Bordeaux, Shiraz, Barolo, or Barbaresco.

Resveratrol

What it means: You may have seen this buzzy antioxidant, found in the skin of grapes listed on the packaging of beauty serums and creams touting its anti-aging properties. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a wine label doing the same. “Based on current studies, it’s not clear that there’s a health benefit [of drinking it] because the resveratrol concentration in wine is low,” Harbertson says. Want to try to load up on resveratrol, just in case? Know that there’s likely a higher concentration of it in red wines versus white. But that’s still no reason to drink more than the recommended one glass a day.

Heavy metals

What it means: Okay, this one’s not listed on any label, but you might have heard about these being linked to wine anyway. Heavy metals are metals and metal compounds that can adversely affect our health when consumed in the right (or wrong, as the case may be) doses. A study published in the Chemistry Central Journal indicated that some wines have showed concerning levels of heavy metals such as copper and manganese. However, according to Harbertson, “the FDA has been monitoring heavy metals in wine and has indicated that concentrations are lower than would require regulation.” Cheers to that!

Organic and biodynamic

What they mean: Organic winemakers refrain from using pesticides and other chemicals in their growing and production methods, and they don’t add sulfites as preservatives. Biodynamic vintners start with these same organic practices, but they also consider the whole ecosystem of the vineyard in growing their grapes, including more obscure factors such as lunar cycles. While Harbertson says he’s all for producing wine that’s environmentally sustainable, he also notes, “there’s not enough information at this point on the human health impacts of biodynamic and organic grapes and wine” to say that the practice is actually good for us.

Low-alcohol

What it means: This hot phrase has been all over wine labels lately. The benefits of low-alcohol wine include getting less drunk with each glass, lower cost per bottle, and a lighter taste. It’s lighter on calories, too: Though the relationship between booze and calorie intake is complex—“alcohol is not converted to energy like other things you consume and, therefore, doesn’t get stored as other calories will,” says Harbertson—alcohol is the primary source of calories in wine, so low-alcohol wine will have fewer of them than bottles with a higher content.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

More from Health.com:

TIME Research

Mixing Booze and Pot Greatly Increases the Amount of THC in Your Blood

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That poses serious questions for road safety

Although marijuana and alcohol are frequently used together, there has been little research into how the two substances react. A new study reported on in Science Daily, however, shows that when they are mixed the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — marijuana’s active ingredient — in a person’s blood is far higher than if marijuana is smoked on its own.

Because the combination of alcohol and cannabis is the most common one detected in car accidents, the research looked at the two drugs from the point of view of vehicle safety.

Scientists examined 19 people drinking alcohol, or a placebo, in low doses ten minutes before inhaling vaporized cannabis in either a low or high dose. When alcohol was consumed, a far higher blood concentration of THC emerged.

When the two drugs were taken together, researchers concluded that the possibility of vehicular crashes increased considerably than if only one drug was taken, Science Daily reports.

“The significantly higher blood THC … values with alcohol possibly explain increased performance impairment observed from cannabis-alcohol combinations,” said lead researcher Dr. Marilyn A. Huestis.

Researchers hope the information will create better drug-related driving legislation.

[Science Daily]

TIME Heart Disease

How Much Alcohol Is Too Much? A New Study Has Answers

Alcohol, at least in moderation, can help the heart, but too much can be toxic. The latest study tells you where to draw the line

For decades, there’s been a steady line of literature welcomed by anyone who enjoys a regular drink or two: that moderate drinking can actually protect you from having a heart attack by keeping your vessels clear and relatively plaque-free. But there’s another set of data that shows too much alcohol can start to poison the heart. So where does the line between good-for-you and bad-for-you lie?

Researchers led by Dr. Scott Solomon, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of non-invasive cardiology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and his colleagues provide some clues Tuesday in their latest report in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging. The scientists combed through data collected from 4,466 elderly people about their alcohol consumption. They also agreed to echocardiograms of their hearts. Solomon wanted to see if there were any changes in the structure of the heart that had anything to do with how much the volunteers reported they drank each week.

MORE: Should Alcohol Be Forced to List Calories?

The not-so-good news: The more the participants drank, the more likely they showed abnormal changes in their heart structure and function. In men, the changes started accumulating after more than two drinks per day, or 14 or more drinks a week. In these men, the pumping chambers of their hearts increased slightly compared to those in non drinkers, a sign that the heart had to work harder to pump the same amount of blood, which can cause it enlarge and weaken. In women, these changes appeared when women drank much less, just above the one drink a day. In addition, among the women who imbibed more than a drink a day, the scientists found slight drops in heart function compared to women who drank less.

“A little bit of alcohol may be beneficial, but too much is clearly going to be toxic,” says Solomon. “Once you get beyond two drinks a day in men, you get into the realm where you start to see subtle evidence of cardiotoxic effects on the heart that might over the long term lead to problems. And that threshold might be lower in women.”

The study provides valuable information about how alcohol affects the heart, and how much alcohol exposure can trigger changes to the heart’s structure and more importantly, how it functions. But where the tipping point lies with each individual between the benefits and harms of a having a few drinks isn’t clear yet. More studies investigating which genetic factors may predispose people, and in particular women, to the toxic effects of alcohol will need to done before more refined advice about how much is too much can be discussed.

Those investigations might start with potential differences in the way men and women process alcohol. The effects Solomon and his team saw remained strong even after they adjusted for body mass index, and other studies have hinted, for example, that the different hormone environments in men and women might be responsible for the increased vulnerability of women’s heart tissues to the toxic effects of alcohol.

Future work may also delve deeper into the question of how long people drink; like any exposure, the effects of alcohol may also be cumulative. Because the participants in the study were relatively elderly, with an average age of 76, their heart changes reflected decades of exposure to alcohol but it’s not clear whether there is a threshold for when the harmful effects dominate over the potentially beneficial ones.

“What is clear is that at more than two drinks a day is the point at which we start to think we are beyond the safe level for men, and with women, it’s likely to be even lower than that,” says Solomon.

TIME Drugs

Washington State Marijuana Shops Caught Selling to Minors

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Four of 22 stores tested for compliance were caught selling weed to underage shoppers in state-run stings

Washington’s retail marijuana businesses got calls from the state liquor control board before the sting operations began, warning them and reminding them about best practices when it comes to keeping weed out of kids’ hands. But when the board sent 18- to 20-year-old operatives into the first batch of stores this month to see if shops would sell them weed, four of them still failed the test. According to the board’s report released Wednesday, that amounted to 18% of 22 operations.

“We’re always going to have the goal of 100% compliance, that’s what we want; [82%] is good, but it’s not great,” says State Senator Ann Rivers, who has continued to work on reforming the state’s retail and medical marijuana industries. “Many of these businesses have invested a lot of time and a lot of money. And it’s stunning to me that they’d be willing to risk their livelihood to do something so foolish.”

By the end of June, the state plans to conduct sting operations at each of the 138 retail marijuana shops reporting sales in Washington. “When the news is out,” the liquor control board’s Brian Smith says of these first numbers, “we’ll see a spike in compliance. That’s what happened on the alcohol side.” In the operations, the underage shoppers present their real IDs if asked but don’t offer an ID if they aren’t; if a store sells them marijuana, they complete the transaction and bring the contraband to officers waiting outside the shops.

Marijuana businesses in Washington that sell to minors face possible license suspensions and fines of up to $2,500. Businesses that fail three times in three years can lose their state-issued licenses, while the person who conducts the actual transaction faces a possible felony charge.

Reformers who wanted to legalize marijuana in Washington and Colorado—and who continue to pursue reform in other states—often argue that weed should be legal because it’s safer than alcohol. Regulations for alcohol, such as selling it only to adults ages 21 and older, have been used as scaffolding for nascent marijuana markets. Smith points out that similar sting operations conducted among liquor sellers in Washington always find slip-ups. Since 2012, monthly checks have found that an average of 85% of businesses, ranging from liquor shops to restaurants, don’t sell to minors.

Colorado conducted their first stings among a sample of 20 retail marijuana shops in 2014 and found 100% compliance, but the vast majority of the state’s more than 250 shops were not tested. Since summer 2014, the state has conducted a total of 137 compliance checks and six shops have been caught selling to minors. Similar checks among liquor sellers in Colorado have found that an average of about 90% of businesses don’t sell alcohol to minors.

Smith chalks some failures up to “human error,” though drivers licenses for residents under age 21 are vertical rather than horizontal in the state. Many shops, he says, have someone stationed at the door and people working the register sometimes mistakenly assume that all shoppers’ IDs have been checked before they show up at the counter. “It’s early. This is a brand new industry that is finding it’s way,” Smith says. “There’s going to be some kinks initially.”

“Because this market is new, some business people don’t have all of their systems in place as much as we might like them to, so I’m going to cut them just the slightest bit of slack,” Rivers says. But she also emphasizes that “part of the expectation of the people of this state was that [a legal marijuana market] would be well taxed and very well regulated to keep it out of the hands of kids.”

While she’s neither thrilled nor deeply disappointed in these first results, Rivers says that attention shouldn’t just be focused on what happens in the stores: “The larger concern for me is people who are purchasing it legally because they’re the right age but then giving it to the underage people.”

A failure to follow the rules gives ammunition to those who did not want to legalize marijuana or who would like to see existing markets fold. But reform advocates point out that there is, at least, some oversight now occurring. “It’s always disappointing when there are isolated incidents of non-compliance, but it’s also a powerful example of how a legal, regulated market leads to more accountability and responsibility,” says Taylor West, spokesperson for the National Cannabis Industry Association. “Because you can certainly bet no one’s checking IDs in the criminal market, and a regulatory process incentivizes legal businesses to play by the rules.”

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Should Alcohol Be Forced to List Calories?

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Your booze is full of "invisible calories"

Right now, alcoholic beverages in the U.S. and the European Union aren’t required to spell out what’s in the bottle. But they should be, argues a public health expert in a new paper calling for calorie counts on all alcoholic beverages.

Fiona Sim, chair of the Royal Society for Public Health in the U.K. argues in her paper published in The BMJ that alcoholic beverages should be required to display calorie labels, since alcohol in general plays a contributing role to obesity. Many adults do not know how many calories they are consuming when they drink alcohol, she says. In people who drink regularly, that proportion can be significant: an estimated 10% of their daily calories come from booze.

“Most women, for example, do not realize that two large glasses of wine, containing 370 calories, comprise almost a fifth of their daily recommended energy intake, as well as containing more than the recommended daily limit of alcohol units,” Sim writes. “With the insidious increase in the size of wine glasses in bars and restaurants in the past decade, it seems likely that many of us have unwittingly increased the number of ‘invisible’ calories we consume in alcohol.”

Sim’s argument is aimed at the U.K., which currently does not require restaurant menus or bottles of alcohol to list their calorie content. The United States does require that calories for alcoholic beverages be listed in restaurants that have 20 or more locations. In the U.S. calories are not required to be listed on the bottle, though manufactures can voluntarily do so. U.S.-based consumer groups have called on industry players and regulators to include them.

Sim says that the calories in alcohol should be treated the same as calories in other foods and beverages. If regulation is not implemented, she says that people in the medical community have a responsibility to set the record straight.

“Those of us in clinical practice regularly ask patients about their weight, eating habits, and exercise in the context of primary or secondary prevention, but how many of us routinely ask about their calories from alcohol?” she writes. “It is time that we started.”

MONEY Travel

Unlimited Free Booze! Tropical Cruise Includes Alcohol, No Extra Charge

Norwegian Sky
Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Sky

One major travel company is shaking up the way cruises are priced: All passengers get to enjoy all-you-can-drink beverages—beer, wine, and spirits included—for the whole cruise, without having to pay extra.

Norwegian Cruise Line sure does seem to want to woo heavy drinkers aboard its ships. Or at least passengers who don’t want to have to pause and think about the cost of each and every beverage they’re consuming.

Last summer, the company introduced an all-you-can-drink beverage option on a limited-time basis, in which passengers could partake in unlimited beer, wine, and spirits for a flat few hundred bucks extra. This week, the company introduced a new all-inclusive cruising package, in which all passengers aboard certain Norwegian Sky departures can enjoy unlimited alcohol at no extra charge. The new policy takes effect starting in January 2016, only on Sky three- and four-day sailings from Miami to the Bahamas.

Normally, cruise prices cover only the cost of a cabin, buffet meals, and some entertainment, and guests are charged extra for most beverages. Cruises attract people who want to relax and cut loose, so alcohol tends to be a huge revenue stream for operators.

What can happen, however, is that newcomers and experienced cruisers alike get turned off by the idea of getting nickel-and-dimed—at exorbitant, sports arena-type prices, mind you—for each drink they have. So it’s easy to see the appeal of Norwegian’s new policy, which is truly more in line with the original pitch for cruising as a mode of vacation: that of a hassle-free, all-inclusive, value-laden experience in which customers could board ships and never have to touch their wallets or worry about much of anything.

While at this time it’s only limited to one ship and short cruises, Norwegian’s more all-inclusive pricing structure will “strongly differentiate us from our competitors,” explained Norwegian president and COO Andy Stuart. He expects the change to appeal in particular to the all-important pool of people who have never been on cruises: “The three- and four-day market is an important market for us and is a market we introduce a lot of new people to cruising, and we’re excited about the prospects of going all-inclusive.”

Let’s not be naïve, however, and think that Norwegian would simply throw free booze into the package without upping the price of cruising. Stuart admitted, vaguely, that Norwegian is increasing prices “a bit” on these all-inclusive sailings. What does that mean exactly?

Answering that question with any degree of precision is more difficult than one might hope because cruise pricing in general is so muddled. How much you pay varies based on when you book, choice of cabin and extras, how you book (broker or directly?), availability, the season and exact dates when you’re traveling, choice of destination and ship, and so on.

For some indication of how much extra Norwegian is charging for its drinks-included Norwegian Sky cruises, we looked at rates in December 2015 and January 2016—immediately before and after the pricing change goes into effect. Four-day cruises from Miami to the Bahamas in early December are currently starting at a rate of $209 per person (not including port charges, taxes, and other extras), based on prices listed at Norwegian’s website. The cheapest rate in January, on the same ship with the same itinerary, starts at $339.

That’s a difference of $130, or $32.50 per day for a four-day cruise. Considering how pricey booze is on cruises—maybe $6 for a beer, $9 per glass of wine—it will be easy for many cruisers to come away feeling that the new pricing offers better value. But what if you’re traveling with children or adults who are content with a single glass of wine at dinner, or who don’t drink at all? If, on average, everyone in your party wouldn’t otherwise be compiling a bar tab of $130 or more during the course of the cruise, you’d probably be better offer sticking with a cruise with more traditional a la carte pricing.

That equation is oversimplifying things because, as mentioned above, cruise pricing is a moving target that’s impossible to nail down. Norwegian hinted that all-inclusive cruises could prove so popular that they’ll drive prices higher, which would change the math on which pricing model represents the best value for the individual cruiser. “We expect that this will increase demand, which—as you know—will drive bookings and ultimately price,” a company PR spokesperson said to Cruise Critic.

TIME Addiction

Here’s Where Americans Binge-Drink the Most

A new study breaks down the numbers by county

Heavy drinking and binge drinking are on the rise in the U.S., but the average amount Americans drink varies greatly by region, according to a new study.

Ten years of research, published in the American Journal of Public Health, breaks down the data by county, observing adults 21 and over who binge-drink — imbibing at least five drinks in one sitting for a man; four for a woman — and those who drink heavily, defined as more than two drinks a day for a man; and more than one for a woman.

Binge-drinking is highest in Menominee County, Wisc., the least populated in the state. Heavy drinking is highest in Esmeralda County, Nev, likewise the least populous in that state. Madison County, Idaho has the lowest levels of binge-drinking, and Hancock County, Tenn.—one of the state’s ‘dry counties’ where the sale of alcohol is prohibited—has the lowest levels of heavy drinking.

Members of affluent communities are the most likely to have at least one drink per month, the study found, while members of poor communities are most likely to binge or drink heavily.

[USA Today]

TIME Alcohol

Teens Who Watch Boozy Movies Are More Likely to Drink, Study Finds

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Photograph by Danny Kim for TIME; Gif by Mia Tramz for TIME

There may be a dark side to Bridget Jones' cute coping sequences

Watching James Bond elegantly guzzle that martini may be having adverse effects on adolescents. A new study from the journal Pediatrics found that 15-year-olds who have watched more alcohol being consumed in films than their peers are more likely to have tried alcohol, more likely to binge drink and more likely to have alcohol-related problems.

“Alcohol is a drug and it has potentially adverse effects, not only for individuals but also for family and friends,” says lead author Andrea Waylen, a lecturer in social sciences at the University of Bristol. “It’s not very often that we see the adverse effects of alcohol portrayed—like vomiting, rotten hangovers,” she adds. “In my view, we don’t really get an accurate representation of what alcohol is like.”

The new paper used data from a longitudinal study in the United Kingdom that surveyed 5,163 15-year-olds on a wide variety of topics. They were asked about their drinking habits and whether they had seen a random selection of 50 popular films, from Bridget Jones’ Diary to Aviator. Waylen and her colleagues used those answers to quantify their exposure to drinking by adding up the minutes in each film that showed alcohol use. (The original study was done in the mid-2000s, when those movies were hot off the reel.)

After controlling for factors ranging from parents’ alcohol use to gender and social class, the researchers found that the kids who had been exposed to the most cinematic swilling were 20% more likely to have tried alcohol and 70% more likely to binge drink. They were more than twice as likely to have a drink more than once per week and to suffer from alcohol-related problems, such as encounters with the police or letting their drinking interfere with school and work.

The recommendation of Waylen and her colleagues is that film ratings take into account heavy drinking; such films, Waylen suggests, would then be more likely to be rated for adults only. In the study, she notes that between 1989 and 2008, 72% of the most popular box office films in the United Kingdom depicted drinking but only 6% were classified as adult only.

A review of top-grossing American films conducted in 2009 found that 49% of PG-13 rated films and 25% of PG-rated films showed more than two minutes of alcohol use. The study concluded that the current rating system was not adequate for parents trying to limit their kids’ exposure to drinking (or smoking, for that matter).

Similar studies conducted in the U.S. and Germany have found connections between kids watching boozing in film and then drinking in real life. Other studies have found similar associations for risky behavior like tobacco use, dangerous driving and early sex.

“My guess is that there needs to be a level of identification with the drinker in the film,” Waylen says. And she believes kids are more likely to identify with consuming characters “in films where alcohol use is made to look cool, get you friends, win the girl or boy.”

Her conclusion is that the officials rating movies need to take demure sips of wine and rowdy spring break chugging contests more seriously. “Adverse outcomes from alcohol use are a large societal public health problem,” the study concludes, “and rating films according to alcohol content may reduce problem-related alcohol use and associated harm in young people.”

TIME Addiction

What Binge Drinking During Adolescence Does to the Brain

A new study in rats underlines the consequences of underage drinking

Binge drinking during adolescence may interfere with brain development and have lasting consequences on genes and behavior, a new study in rats shows.

In the study, published in the journal Neurobiology of Disease, the researchers mimicked adolescent binge drinking in a population of rats, in order to see how the alcohol affected their brains. The rats, which were 28 days old, were given alcohol for two days in a row and then abstained for two days, alternating for nearly two weeks. Some of the rats in the study were observed into adulthood.

The researchers discovered that the rats that binge drank when they were younger, preferred alcohol to water when they were older and displayed more anxiety-like behaviors compared to rats that didn’t drink. The researchers also noted epigenetic changes in the brains of the rats (changes to DNA caused by chemicals or environmental substances, like alcohol). The researchers believe that some of the rats’ behavior could be explained by these brain changes.

Though the study was in rats and not in humans, the researchers believe it suggests some of the possible effects of adolescent drinking on growing brains, and underlines the potential lasting consequences.

The researchers also found that a cancer drug was able to reverse some of these effects, which may hint at a possible treatment. One of the study authors has a patent pending related to the drug.

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