Binge drinking in teenagers can damage memory for years: study

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London, Apr 4 (UNI) Binge drinking as a teenager could damage memory for years to come, scientists warn.

According to a new study, youngsters who binge show significant deterioration before reaching their 20s.

Drinking in excess interferes with a critical stage in development of the brain and the problem may get worse with age, it adds.

Researcher Thomas Heffernan said, ''There is evidence that excess alcohol and binge drinking in particular damages parts of the brain that underpin everyday memory.'' ''Not only may these teenagers be harming their memory, if their brains are still developing they could be storing up problems for the future,'' the Daily Mail quoted him as saying.

Dr Heffernan, a Northumbria University psychologist, looked at the effect of alcohol on memory in 60 youngsters aged 16 to 19.

Around half were effectively binge alcoholics, drinking an average of 30 units on two nights out, the equivalent of a bottle of spirits, while the others drank rarely or never.

The teenagers, who all went to college or university in the North-East of England, were asked how often they had forgotten things they planned or needed to do, such as locking the door, meeting a friend or posting a letter.

They were also asked to play a computer game which required them to remember and complete tasks as they walked along a fictional high street, as a more objective measure of memory loss.

The binge drinkers did significantly worse at the game, completing up to a third fewer tasks properly, the study found.

Dr Heffernan said drinkers are unaware of the harm they may be doing to their brain. ''It seems to me they are not aware of the memory deficits that binge drinking is causing,'' Daily Mail quoted him as saying.

A culture of cheap, readily available drink and acceptance of drinking was making matters worse, he warned.

''The liberalisation of drinking and access to cheap booze does nothing to help curb the problem of binge drinking,'' he said.

More than 4,000 under-14s have been admitted to hospital over the past three years because they drank too much.


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