Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Teen Drinking and Brain Damage

If you knew that you could prevent brain damage and school problems for your kid, would you act? A new study out says that there might be something pretty simple you can do: don’t let your underage kids drink.

There’s a common myth among parents that letting your kids drink under your supervision is better than not knowing where they are, if they’ll be driving, and so on. But a new study conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Diego, found a difference between the brains of teens who drank and those who didn’t.

The study started when none of the teen subjects had ever had alcohol. Over the next few years, however, some of the teens began to drink. Those that did drink were often bingeing (4-5 drinks a night) two or three nights a month.

The binge drinkers did worse on memory tests; binge-drinking boys also did worse on tests of attention, while the binge-drinking girls were worse when their spatial reasoning was tested.

What’s especially surprising is that the damage shows up so quickly. Just two of those “supervised” parties a month – approximately the same rate that the teens in the study were drinking – could potentially lead to brain damage. The study says that the performance of the non-drinkers to the binge drinkers can be compared to a whole grade point: like “the difference between

an A and a B”.

While the study does note that more research needs to be done to find out if the damage is reversible, it’s hard to imagine that it’s a risk a parent would be willing to take. And why make the complicated and difficult teen years harder?

So what can you do? Share this information with other parents. We know that it can be hard to talk about underage drinking with the parents of your child’s friends—but we think that preventing brain damage and school trouble is great motivation. Talk to other parents about the rules you set in your home, and find out their rules as well.

The story was featured on NPR on January 25th.

For more information, visit us at www.21reasons.org. We even have a resource section just for parents.

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