Heavy Drinking by Teens May Affect White Matter


Heavy alcohol use in adolescence is linked to disruptions in white matter integrity, new research suggests. (JAMA Psychiatry. Published online December 30, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2020.4064)

In a case control study of more than 400 participants, the association was more pronounced in younger adolescents and in the anterior and middle corpus callosum, which serve the interhemispheric integration of frontal networking and communication.

Adolescence is a critical period of physiologic and social maturation accompanied by significant structural, functional, and neurochemical brain changes.

Results showed that 291 participants (37.2%) remained at no-to-low drinking levels (youth-adjusted Cahalan score, 0) throughout the time points examined, and 160 (20.5%) were classified as heavy drinkers for at least two consecutive visits (youth-adjusted Cahalan score > 1).

Among the no-to-low drinkers, 48.4% were boys with a mean age of 16.5 years and 51.2% were girls with a mean age of 16.5 years. About two thirds of the group (66%) were White.

Among heavy drinkers, 53.8% were boys with a mean age of 20.1 years and 46.3% were girls with a mean age of 20.5 years. In this group, 88.8% were White.