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Age at First Drink and Alcohol Dependence

by James Heller 12. January 2010 08:21
The onset of alcohol dependence depends, in general, on a combination of genetic and environmental factors.  It is also true that teen alcohol abuse increases the likelihood of future problems with alcoholism.  Because of this, it is very important for parents to remain educated and help adolescents avoid that fate.

Adolescent brain development is altered by alcohol abuse.  There is evidence that teen binge drinking damages connections between nerves, and disables some communication.  This not only hinders the brain’s ability to function later in life, creating possible physical, behavioral, and learning disabilities.  But it may potentiate the genetic disposition to alcoholism as well.

Everyone is born with a genetic code that determines many things about them.  This includes whether alcohol will affect them differently than the majority of the population.  It runs in the family, but the source of why one suffers alcohol problems more than others is mostly a mystery.  It could be that adolescent alcohol abuse works with genetic code to “build” an alcoholic brain, or at least perfect the mechanism.

In other words, if there is a family history of alcoholism, then no adolescent in that family should even try alcohol.  It appears that, between two teens that have the genetic make-up for alcoholism, the one who drinks in adolescence can become more at risk for future problems with alcoholism than the one who does not drink until adulthood.  It is almost as if the brain accepts alcoholism as its destiny, and accommodates it.

The Addiction Technology Transfer Center has posted an article on a study that supports this.  Youth alcohol abuse will not go away on its own.  Parents need to arm themselves with knowledge of this type so teens know why to avoid alcohol abuse, and possible later in life visits to alcohol detox and treatment.

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Individuals who begin drinking at an early age are more likely to subsequently develop alcohol dependence (AD).  While age at first drink (AFD) and AD are influenced by similar genetic and environmental factors, AFD may also have an impact on the risk for AD.  A new study has found that AFD may facilitate the expression of genes that are already associated with vulnerability to AD symptoms.

Results will be published in the December issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research and are currently available at Early View.

“Drinking at an early age may create an environment where individuals can more easily transition from normative to problematic drinking,” said Arpana Agrawal, assistant professor of psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine and corresponding author for the study.  “Early AFD is often part of other precocious/non-normative behaviors such as conduct problems, experimentation with drugs, and deviant peers.  From a biological perspective, early AFD may induce changes in the highly sensitive adolescent brain, which may also modify an individual’s subsequent genetic vulnerability to AD.”

-- Source: http://www.attcnetwork.org/explore/priorityareas/science/tools/asmeDetails.asp?ID=633

Tarzana Treatment Centers in Los Angeles provides youth alcohol and drug treatment as part of our commitment to integrated behavioral healthcare in alcohol and drug treatment.  If you or a loved one suffers from alcohol dependence or drug addiction, please call us now at 888-777-8565 or contact us here.

Southern California Locations for Alcohol and Drug Treatment
Tarzana Treatment Centers has locations all over Southern California in Los Angeles County. Other than our central location in Tarzana, we have facilities in Lancaster in the Antelope Valley, Long Beach, and in Northridge and Reseda in the San Fernando Valley.