Study Finds Teen Drinking Can Lead To Anxiety & Alcohol Abuse Later In Life

mbg Editorial Assistant By Abby Moore
mbg Editorial Assistant
Abby Moore is an Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine.
Teen Drinking Can Lead To Anxiety & Alcohol Abuse Later In Life

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Everything from diet, family structure, and stress in early childhood has the potential to affect our health later in life. While most of those elements can be looked after in early parenting, it's harder to control what children do as they get older.

Around 12 years old, kids tend to be influenced more by their peers than by their parents. Peer-pressure, combined with an increased exposure to alcohol, have made it the drug of choice among middle and high schoolers, but the effects can go way beyond high school years.

According to a study published by the Society for Neuroscience in eNeuro, drinking alcohol as a teen could be linked to mental health issues later in life.

The study found teenage binge-drinking altered their gene expressions, increasing the likelihood to develop anxiety and alcohol abuse disorders later in life.  

Previous research found that a small genetic molecule (called microRNA) played a part in changing the brain of young people who consumed alcohol. This study aimed to find the exact mechanism responsible for the change.

To do this, adolescent rats were exposed to alcohol and then measured for specific microRNA rates. Scientists looked that the amygdalae (the part of the brain that processes emotions) and found that rats exposed to alcohol had higher levels of a certain molecule called miR-137, which decreased the proteins needed for healthy neuron growth.

Because emotional development was hindered in adolescence, the adult rats suffered from anxiety and had a higher propensity to drink alcohol as adults.

This research provides evidence for the long-term effects of drinking at an early age. Discovering a link between early alcohol use and alcohol use disorders later in life might help researchers gain a better understanding of alcoholism. 

The scientists were also able to reverse the anxiety and alcohol preference in rats by inhibiting miR-137 in the amygdala. This might provide help for adults affected in the future, but more research needs to be done.

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