Teens who binge drink may be more likely to experience problems with attention as well as making decisions and carrying them out (executive function), a study shows.
The study, published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, also shows that teens who smoke marijuana tend to have trouble with their memory.
Substance abuse during the adolescent years can have significant lifelong consequences on the developing brain. "Both animal models and observational studies in humans suggest that binge drinking during adolescence alters normal developmental processes in a way that negatively impacts learning and social adjustment into adulthood," says study researcher Robert J. Thoma, PhD, a psychiatrist at the Center for Neuropsychological Services of the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, in an email.
"On one hand, the adolescents in our study were functioning largely within the normal range on cognitive tests, [but] it is likely that they are under-performing on many of these tasks relative to their ability before initiation of binge drinking," he says.
The average number of drinks per drinking day reported by teen binge drinkers was 13. The more alcohol the teens drank, the greater the deficits in their attention and executive function, the study shows. In addition, smoking marijuana had an independent effect on memory.