Does Underage Drinking Cause Anxiety?

It’s well known that underage drinking poses serious health risks for teens. Now, new research suggests that early alcohol exposure can come back to haunt a person later in life.

A recent study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, identified a link between alcohol consumption in adolescents and later increased anxiety in adulthood.

The study looked at changes in the brains of rats who were administered alcohol as adolescents, as compared to those who were not exposed to alcohol. The animals that were given alcohol demonstrated changes in the brain that made them susceptible to anxiety as adults.

“These findings provide a better understanding of how adolescent alcohol exposure can lead to life-long biomolecular changes that increase the risk for adult-onset psychiatric disorders,” said the study’s leader Subhash C. Pandey Ph.D, professor and director of the NIAAA-funded Alcohol Research Center in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a Senior Research Career Scientist at Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in Chicago.

This research provides important evidence of the long-range impacts of underage drinking, adding to an existing body of research that shows that exposure to alcohol at a young age can be particularly detrimental.

At COCA, Prevention Specialist Sarah Billman works with teens through our UDecide Program, educating them on the problems associated with underage drinking.

“Alcohol use has the ability to cause structural changes to an immature brain.  The human brain is still growing and developing into the mid-20’s.  Introducing a mood altering substance, like alcohol, to that developing brain can alter the way the brain works.  And the substance does not need to be taken in large quantities in order to do damage,” Billman cautioned.

If you are concerned about the alcohol use of a teen you know, you can refer them to our UDecide Program. This program is an opportunity for young adults to learn the facts about alcohol, marijuana, and other addictive substances. CLICK HERE for more details.


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