Research states, binge-drinking can rewire a teenager’s brain and may make them more depressed and prone to alcohol-use disorders later in their lifetime. A study had been conducted on the overindulgence of alcohol for adolescents. The study found that alcohol alters the expression of the protein BDNF, which happens to control fear and anxiety in the brain.
“BDNF is needed for normal development in the brain and for connections to form between neurons,” the researchers claim. Changing the protein’s expression can also increase an adolescent’s risk of psychological problems and alcoholism as an adult, they add.
Scientists analyzed the brain tissue of over 40 deceased patients, and they found that teens who had indulged in drinking had 40 percent less BDNF than the others.
According to DailyMail, the research was carried out by Professor Subhash Pandey, director of the Center for Alcohol Research in Epigenetics at Illinois University.
Binge-drinking is a dangerous habit and can have terrible repercussions. This type of drinking is defined as individuals who have had six units of alcohol in a short period. This can equate to about two or three glasses of wine or beer.
Many adolescent girls have fallen into this habit. In 2018, one in six adults binge drinks around four times a month in the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the habit is common in those aged 18-34.
To conduct their research, scientists analyzed the postmortem results of 44 people who died in their mid-to-late fifties in Sydney. Of the deceased, 11 were heavy drinkers, 11 participated in binge drinking later in life, and 22 had no history of alcohol abuse.
The results revealed that the brains of those who drank heavily in their adolescent years had much less BDNF than the others. BDNF is essential in the growth of the mind, which becomes fully developed at age 25. The protein promotes the survival of neurons and plays a role in the maturation and maintenance of the nerve cells. BDNF is also found in the part of the brain that detects fear. It helps with the fight or flight response of the human body.
Any damage to this part of the brain, the amygdala has been linked to depression as well as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“BDNF is needed for normal development in the brain and for connections to form between neurons,” Professor Pandey stated.
“If levels are lowered due to alcohol exposure then the brain will not develop normally.”
The damage does not end there. Alcohol is also thought to lead to epigenetic changes (where environmental factors influence a person’s DNA) but only in those who drink under the age of 21.
“The epigenetic changes we saw in the amygdala of early-onset drinkers can alter the normal function of the amygdala, which helps regulate our emotions,” Professor Pandey said.
“[It] may cause individuals to be more susceptible for things like anxiety, which we have shown in other studies, or the development and maintenance of alcohol-use disorder later in life.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol addiction, please call the SAMHSA’s National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357).