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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Heavy Alcohol and Pot Use May Damage Teen Brains

The teenage mind is a mind that is far from developed and heavy exposure of drugs and alcohol to a teenage brain will damage it. A new study determined that teens who abused marijuana and alcohol scored lower on a number of intellectual aptitude tests than those teenagers who were drug free, according to a report from HealthDay News. It has long been said that drugs and alcohol will damage key neuro-functions that are extremely important, abstaining or moderating consumption is always the best course. Parents need to be extra cautious of their children's behavior.

Investigators used 48 teens whose ages ranged from 12 to 18 to help determine the effects of chronic substance abuse on the brain. Researchers at the University of New Mexico tested: verbal reasoning, executive function, visuospatial ability, memory, and processing speed. Teens who had reported the highest abuse scored the lowest; those who abused alcohol had executive function problems while those who abused pot had memory problems.

Nineteen of the participants had a diagnosis of substance abuse or dependence
14 were abstinent but had a parent who abused alcohol
15 were abstinent controls with no family history of alcohol abuse

Even teens that did not drink or drug but had a parent who did scored lower on visuospatial ability. The study failed to take into account socioeconomic status or lack of education so we are advised to be cautious about how we read these findings.
"Kids who abuse drugs and alcohol are different from those who don't," said Ramani Durvasula, PhD, associate professor of psychology at California State University in Los Angeles. "Let's face it, when kids are drinking 13 drinks a day (the study average), there's not a lot of parental supervision going on."

"Which came first," said Robert Thoma, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry at UNM and lead author of the study, "The low executive function, which could lead to drinking more, or the heavy drinking, which leads to poor executive function?" Large longitudinal studies are needed to definitively answer to that question, he concluded.

The study was published online Oct. 19 in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

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