Wednesday, 3 December 2014 - 11:58
Alcohol's impact on teen brains limited: Utrecht PhD
According to a new study, there is no evidence that young people will perform worse because of alcohol use. A long-term study of 2,230 Dutch adolescents shows that drinkers perform no worse than non-drinkers when it comes to memory, impulse control and concentration. The Utrecht neuro-psychologist Sarai Boelema, who will receive her PhD on this study on Friday, realizes that the results may come as a surprise. "It is frequently warned that the adolescent brain is particularly vulnerable to alcohol, but there is little research on this. The studies that doe exist, do not point unequivocally in the same direction." Now for the first time Boelema followed a large group of young people who represent a cross section of the population. "The view is mainly based on research into alcohol addicted adolescents. The cognitive damage that can yield is wrongly generalized. Moreover, addicts often have psychological issues. This can possibly explain their poor cognitive performance." Virtually all existing studies compare problem drinkers with non-drinkers. According to Boelema, the fact that those drinkers function worse does not say much. "It is unclear whether that is the cause or the effect of the alcohol." State Secretary of Health Martin van Rijn responded critically to the study. "That alcohol is bad for children stands as a pole above water. Opposite this study are numerous studies on the damage caused by alcohol in unborn children, by binge drinking, in children and the relationship with behavioral problems", he says. "I shall continue to put effort into further reducing the use of alcohol among young people." Van Rijn added that this topic deserves continued attention and new research. The researchers tested 2,230 young people on their 11th and 19th. The divided the into six groups ranging from non-drinkers to heavy drinkers. The "heavy" drinkers drank six or more glasses of alcohol on one occasion at least once a week for four years. The average was about 15 glasses per week. Alcohol gave no increased risk of abnormalities in cognitive function, says Boelema. "Not even in heavy drinkers." Even more complex tests which test problem solving abilities, showed no difference.