Is there a test to determine if your kid will become an alcoholic?
If you want to know if your teen will become a heavy drinker, peek into his brain and you might get the answer. Researchers have found there's a difference between the developing brains of teens who eventually abuse alcohol and those who stay sober. In essence, the study--which followed a group of 40 teens over three years--found that those who developed heavy drinking habits showed less activity in the working memory area of their brains.
But what does that mean exactly?
Read more in ¿Qué más?: Is your teen's brain pre-wired for addiction?
Working memory is pretty much where we store information that allows us to make higher-order choices. So deficiencies in working memory could cause teens to be more open to drinking, less capable of weighing risks and options and forgetful about negative side effects. Although there's been prior research regarding risk factors for teen drinking, researchers believe this study involving the brain "was able to predict future drinking better," as lead author, Lindsay Squeglia, told LiveScience.
So are you supposed to take your teen to get an MRI scan to see if he or she will become a heavy drinker? Of course, not. That wouldn't really be feasible or cost effective. But if you notice your child's working memory seems to be deficient, then that might be a red flag alerting you to future drinking problems.
Plus, the fact that researchers have made this discovery is amazing because it gives clues into the biological origins of future heavy drinking problems. According to Squeglia, the next step is to look at other areas of the brain to find out if there are other differences between those who become heavy drinkers and those who stay sober.
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Since 1 in 6 adults in the U.S. is a binge drinker--meaning five or more drinks for men and four or more for women during a short period of time--the more we learn about what makes some more vulnerable than others, the better we'll get at trying to prevent it.
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Image via stopalcoholdeaths/flickr