Summary: Children who start drinking alcohol between the ages of 11 and 13 are at greater risk of developing psychiatric disorders later in life, a new study reports.
Source: Complutense University of Madrid.
Alcohol consumption onset between eleven and thirteen years old is associated with an increased risk of psychological disorders in the future, according to a study conducted by the Complutense University of Madrid. The most common symptoms of more than 3.000 adolescents who participated in the research were bodily discomfort, hostility and aggression.
A study with 3.696 university students of 18 years old conducted by scientists at the Complutense University of Madrid and the University of Santiago de Compostela and founded by the National Drug Plan (Spain) reveals that starting drinking alcohol at an early age is associated with an increase of psychopathological symptoms, i.e. certain possibility of suffering from a psychological disorder in the future.
“The presence of these signs does not necessarily mean the existence of clinical disorders, but it can be interpreted as a susceptibility to suffer them”, said Luis Miguel García Moreno, researcher at the Department of Psychobiology at the University Complutense of Madrid (UCM) and co-author of the study published in Psicothema.
Scientists took into account nine psychopathological domains: anxiety, depression, obsession-compulsion, phobia, hostility, paranoid ideation, interpersonal sensitivity, psychoticism and somatization.
The participants, which did not include any teetotaler, had to fill out anonymous questionnaires where they were asked about the frequency of alcohol consumption, age of onset and questions determining the existence of any of the nine symptoms selected.
The study reveals that starting drinking between eleven and thirteen increases the risk of experiencing symptoms of discomfort compared to those whose consumption onset was at sixteen. The most common symptom recorded by those adolescents was somatization which involves experiencing feelings of bodily discomfort, especially with muscle aches, respiratory and gastrointestinal disorders.
Other common symptoms were hostility and aggression, leading to a greater propensity to expressing ideas or violent behavior towards others or themselves.
Regarding gender differences, “women showed signs of anxiety and depression, while men showed a certain degree of psychoticism”, said García Moreno. Overall, women recorded higher values of indicators which, according to the psychologist, may point out a greater vulnerability of adolescent women to alcohol effects.
The authors indicate that a cause-effect relationship between alcohol consumption and the symptoms found cannot be established because of the cross-sectional nature of the study. “We can only be sure that there is a relationship and we cannot say what happens first: if the consumption produces these symptoms or if certain symptoms predispose to alcohol consumption”, recalled García Moreno.
At present, the research team is working on more personalized ways of preventing alcohol intake, depending on the personal characteristics of each adolescent. To do this, they are trying to figure out what drives them to alcohol binge drinking.
Brain damage after two years of consumption
Part of the team, along with researchers of the Center of Biomedical Technology (CTB, Madrid) and the University of Minho (Portugal), have participated in another study published this year in Scientific Reports. They have found that there are functional brain alterations in those binge drinkers who persisted drinking after a two-year follow-up period.
These scientists, who proved last year how occasional binge drinking episodes alter the brain circuitry of adolescents, have gone a step further. They analyzed, by means of Magnetoencephalograh (MEG), how functional connectivity has evolved in adolescent who persisted drinking for at least two years. To this end, they evaluated thirty-nine students, 22 nonusers and 17 binge drinkers.
“In a previous study we found a different functional brain connectivity pattern in those adolescents who had a binge drinking alcohol consumption. In the recent study, we found that these differences increased over the two-year follow-up period in those participants who persisted with this consumption pattern”, summarized García Moreno.
The circuits involved were located within the so-called Default Mode Network (DMN), composed of active brains regions when the participant is at a resting state. The precuneus, the anterior and posterior cingulate, medial prefrontal cortex and the inferior parietal cortex are part of this brain network which showed abnormalities in those binge drinkers whose consumption pattern held for at least two years.
Funding: The research was funded by National Drug Plan (Spain).
Source: Luis Miguel García Moreno – Complutense University of Madrid
Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is credited to Fran López UPDG.
Original Research: Abstract for “Early alcohol use and psychopathological symptoms in university students” by Carina Carbia, Montserrat Corral, Luis Miguel García-Moreno, Fernando Cadaveira and Francisco Caamaño-Isorna in Psicothema. Published online October 2016 doi:10.7334/psicothema2015.251
Full open access research for “Functional and structural brain connectivity of young binge drinkers: a follow-up study” by A. Correas, P. Cuesta, E. López-Caneda, S. Rodríguez Holguín, L. M. García-Moreno, J. A. Pineda-Pardo, F. Cadaveira and F. Maestú in Scientific Reports. Published online August 10 2016 doi:10.1038/srep31293
Early alcohol use and psychopathological symptoms in university students
Adolescent brain may be particularly vulnerable to alcohol. Plus, psychopathological disorders tend to emerge in this period. Consequently, early alcohol use may increase the risk of psychopathological disorders, with time and sex-dependent effects. However, few studies have analyzed the relationship between alcohol consumption and adolescent psychopathology in the general population. The objective was to determine the association between age of onset of alcohol use and psychopathological symptoms in university students, separately for both sexes. Method: A cross-sectional study involving first-year university students (n = 3,696) was conducted. Symptoms were measured by the Symptom Checklist-R (SCL-90-R). The independent variable was age of first alcohol use. Dependent variables were the SCL-90-R dimensions, dichotomized. Alcohol consumption was considered a mediator variable. Data were analyzed separately for males and females. Results: The findings showed that a younger age of onset is a risk factor for the following global indexes: Global Severity Index, Positive Symptom Total for females, and Positive Symptom Distress Index, for males. Alcohol consumption showed a higher mediator effect for females than for males. Conclusion: Early age of alcohol use is associated with increased psychopathological symptomatology in both sexes during the college freshman year. The pattern of symptomatology is different in each sex.
“Early alcohol use and psychopathological symptoms in university students” by Carina Carbia, Montserrat Corral, Luis Miguel García-Moreno, Fernando Cadaveira and Francisco Caamaño-Isorna in Psicothema. Published online October 2016 doi:10.7334/psicothema2015.251
Functional and structural brain connectivity of young binge drinkers: a follow-up study
Adolescence is a period of ongoing brain maturation characterized by hierarchical changes in the functional and structural networks. For this reason, the young brain is particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of alcohol. Nowadays, binge drinking is a pattern of alcohol consumption increasingly prevalent among adolescents. The aim of the present study is to evaluate the evolution of the functional and anatomical connectivity of the Default Mode Network (DMN) in young binge drinkers along two years. Magnetoencephalography signal during eyes closed resting state as well as Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) were acquired twice within a 2-year interval from 39 undergraduate students (22 controls, 17 binge drinkers) with neither personal nor family history of alcoholism. The group comparison showed that, after maintaining a binge drinking pattern along at least two years, binge drinkers displayed an increased brain connectivity of the DMN in comparison with the control group. On the other hand, the structural connectivity did not show significant differences neither between groups nor over the time. These findings point out that a continued pattern of binge drinking leads to functional alterations in the normal brain maturation process, even before anatomical changes can be detected.
“Functional and structural brain connectivity of young binge drinkers: a follow-up study” by A. Correas, P. Cuesta, E. López-Caneda, S. Rodríguez Holguín, L. M. García-Moreno, J. A. Pineda-Pardo, F. Cadaveira and F. Maestú in Scientific Reports. Published online August 10 2016 doi:10.1038/srep31293