Decision-Making Affected by Binge Drinking

Teens that binge drink can experience a wealth of negative consequences. They may suffer academically, experience difficulty in relationships with family and friends, and they may receive punishments at home if they violate their parents’ rules about alcohol consumption. In addition to these more immediate results, new research suggests that teens may also experience problems later in life with decision-making.

The study from the researchers at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque shows that teens who participate in heavy episodic drinking may develop problems with decision making later in life.

The researchers surveyed 48 participants. 19 of the teens had been diagnosed with substance abuse problems, 14 had a family history of substance abuse but had not yet developed a problem, and 15 had not used alcohol or drugs at all.

The study revealed that the level of drinking was directly correlated with performance on cognitive testing. The more a teen drinks during a binge drinking session, the poorer their performance on tests that measure cognition. The measurements included memory, task completion, reasoning skills and information processing speed.

Lead researcher Dr. Robert J. Thomas explained to WebMD that not only do the results occur consistently in observational studies in humans, but animal models also reveal patterns of alteration in normal developmental processes in ways that affect learning and social adjustment well into adulthood.

The adolescents in the study performed largely within the normal range on the cognitive tests, but the researchers believe that they were under-performing compared to how they might have performed before they began participating in binge drinking.

The effects on the cognitive abilities could have a significant impact on the teens’ prospects in life, limiting their choices academically and professionally. A pattern of under-performing in school, for example, could significantly alter the path of a high school student and cause them to underachieve into a lower job placement and socioeconomic status.

Results of the study could indicate that programs may be useful for connecting abstinence from alcohol consumption with academic scholarships or award programs. Students that choose not to drink to ensure a successful academic future may attract investors in their education.

The study highlights a significant association: students who binge drink as teenagers may be setting a trajectory for a lower level of success professionally and end up in a lower socioeconomic group. It may be beneficial to educate students who want to assure that their path is laid for success about the possible pitfalls of binge drinking.

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