Friday, April 04, 2008

Drink? What drink?

Back to the topic of binge drinking. As someone commonly termed 'a one pot screamer', meaning one drink usually makes me very cheap entertainment, I certainly blog a lot about alcohol.

Note that I never address the issues of binge chocolate eating. *cough*

Seriously, the increasing trend for binge drinking is a worry on so many levels. I've previously blogged about associated behavioural inhibition leading to risky behaviours and 'drunkorexia' but the list of concerns continues.

A new study from Northumbria and Keele Universities in the U. K. has revealed that binge drinking can have an impact on memory and that the effects are not transient but can last up to several days. This raises the issue, particularly in the context of adolescent drinking where the brain is still developing, of potential longterm damage.

The study examined students aged 17 to 19. Binge drinking was defined as at least 8 units a session for a man and 6 for a woman once or twice a week. In the study, drinkers consumed, on average, 30 units in just two sessions.

While binge drinkers reported no differences in memory compared to non-drinkers on self-report measures, a video-based test of memory showed otherwise. Binge drinkers reported up to a third less of items than non-drinkers.

Dr Thomas Heffernan, from the University of Northumbria states, "There is evidence that excess alcohol and binge drinking in particular damages parts of the brain that underpin everyday memory. Not only may these teenagers be harming their memory, if their brains are still developing they could be storing up problems for the future." Worrying stuff.

You can read a brief review of the study here.


Heffernan, T. (2008). The impact of excessive alcohol use on prospective memory: A brief review. Current Drug Abuse Reviews, 1, 36-41 (link provided above).


phd in yogurtry said...

And binge drinking is pretty much the rule, not the exception, for adolescents, correct?

Health Psych said...

Hi PhD in Yogurtry,

Thank you for dropping by and commenting. :)

Binge drinking as the rule for adolescents? Nope, I don't think I suggested that. However, binge drinking is reportedly on the increase in general and this study raises an important question in asking whether the effects on memory, while appearing to be transient, may have longer term consequences in this particular age group where brain development is in progress. Would obviously need longitudinal research to assess that.


phd in yogurtry said...

I've been reading some on the recent NIMH studies looking at adolescent brains via MRI scans. These studies say that there is so much more brain development than previously believed - white and gray matter growth - during these years. So teen drinking is that much more risky, apparently. It makes me look back at my own teen drinking and shake my head. How much smarter could I be right now? LOL

I have read that binge drinking is fairly prevalent, maybe 2/3rds of teens admit to regular binge drinking.

When you say so many "units" of alcohol, is a unit the equivalent of an ounce?

Health Psych said...

Hi PhD in Yogurtry,

The Australian Government Alcohol Screen (AUDIT) talks about units/standard drinks, so a unit would be:

425ml of light beer (2.5% alcohol)
285ml of full strength beer (4.9% alcohol) (can equates to 1 1/2 standard drinks)
100ml wine (12% alcohol)
60ml of fortified wine (20% alcohol)
30ml spirits (40% alcohol)

Definitions of a unit of alcohol vary but this site might help: