Heavy Teen Drinking May Impair Later Impulse Control

A new study found moderately impulsive adolescent boys who drank heavily have less impulse control in later years — thus putting them at risk for more heavy drinking, HealthDay News reported Nov. 16.

Investigators at the Rutgers University Center of Alcohol Studies examined drinking patterns and impulse control scores annually among approximately 500 Pittsburgh-area boys aged 8 to 18, with follow-up assessment at age 24 to 25.

According to the findings, teens with moderate impulsivity scores who drank heavily had significantly increased impulsivity scores at the next year’s assessment. There was no change in impulsivity, regardless of consumption, among boys with low or high impulsivity scores.

Although the causal link between heavy alcohol use and increased impulsivity has not been fully established, the authors believe alcohol affects the areas of the developing brain that support behavioral control.

These results point to the need for early prevention measures, according to Andrew Littlefield, a University of Missouri doctoral candidate in psychology and researcher on alcohol and brain development, who was not involved in the study.

“Decreasing heavy drinking during adolescence may decrease impulsivity by preventing damage to crucial brain areas. Findings also suggested that adolescents who stopped heavy drinking later ’rebounded’ to lower levels of impulsivity,” said Littlefield in a news release.

“Therefore, decreasing drinking during adolescence could result in improved self-control at later ages.”

The study was published online Nov. 12 in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

Heavy Teen Drinking May Impair Later Impulse Control

A new study found moderately impulsive adolescent boys who drank heavily have less impulse control in later years — thus putting them at risk for more heavy drinking, HealthDay News reported Nov. 16.

Investigators at the Rutgers University Center of Alcohol Studies examined drinking patterns and impulse control scores annually among approximately 500 Pittsburgh-area boys aged 8 to 18, with follow-up assessment at age 24 to 25.

According to the findings, teens with moderate impulsivity scores who drank heavily had significantly increased impulsivity scores at the next year's assessment. There was no change in impulsivity, regardless of consumption, among boys with low or high impulsivity scores.

Although the causal link between heavy alcohol use and increased impulsivity has not been fully established, the authors believe alcohol affects the areas of the developing brain that support behavioral control.

These results point to the need for early prevention measures, according to Andrew Littlefield, a University of Missouri doctoral candidate in psychology and researcher on alcohol and brain development, who was not involved in the study.

“Decreasing heavy drinking during adolescence may decrease impulsivity by preventing damage to crucial brain areas. Findings also suggested that adolescents who stopped heavy drinking later 'rebounded' to lower levels of impulsivity,” said Littlefield in a news release.

“Therefore, decreasing drinking during adolescence could result in improved self-control at later ages.”

The study was published online Nov. 12 in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.