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Delayed Brain Development linked to Alcohol and Drug Abuse

United Nations statistics show that about 40% drug abusers worldwide get addicted between 15 and 20 years of age. In India, a study done by Nimhans shows that the average age of starting alcohol abuse has reduced from 28 years in the 1980s to 17 years in 2007.

The Indian Association of Paediatrics is observing Teens Day on Monday, focussing on drug and alcohol abuse among teenagers, the theme being ‘Booze and abuse: Either lose them or lose yourself’.

“Latest researches show that the age of initiation of alcohol usage has fallen from 21 years to 18 years over the last decade,” said Dr Preethi Galagali, consultant adolescent paediatrician, Adolescent Care and Counselling Centre, Bangalore, and a member of Academy of Indian Paediatrics.

The legal age for alcohol consumption again varies from one state to another. For example, in Bangalore while youths are legally permitted to drink after 18, in Delhi 25 is the age limit. “The frontal lobe of the brain (also known as the judgemental centre of the brain) is one of the last portions of human body to develop and maturity takes place only between 21 and 24 years of age. When adolescents start early on alcohol, drug or even tobacco smoking, chances of him getting chronically addicted is very high,” said Dr Galagali.

When the brain is developing, the neurotoxin quality of alcohol acts on it, slowing down the development. This also leads to slow learning and poor coordination in the adolescent, she said.

Lifestyle changes, increased disposable incomes, peer pressure, lack of adult supervision, lack of communication in families are all in a way responsible for an increasing number of teens taking to addictions, said Dr Sulata Shenoy, child and adolescent psychologist, Turning Point Child Guidance Centre.

“Now the trend is to experiment at younger ages with behaviours which previously were confined to adults. Now children are maturing early, both physically and mentally.” They have various experiences right from early childhood, they travel globally, are more exposed to different cultures and lifestyles and the ‘been there, done that’ attitude eggs them on to risk-taking behaviours, she said.

Children and teenagers are vulnerable both physically and psychologically to early exposure to addictions, making them vulnerable to early sexual experimentation, lack of focus on their life goals, dropout from academics and inability to hold on to long term relationships and jobs, said Dr Shenoy.

Schools and colleges are the commonest places where alcohol abuse begins, either as a solitary or group activity. A combination of factors like migration, independence, curiosity, peer group influences, academic stress, socialising, easy access and media influences drive youngsters to experiment with alcohol and later become regular users. Keeping this in mind, the Academy of Indian Paediatrics, Bangalore Chapter, is focusing on schools to generate awareness about the topic among teenagers, parents and teachers.

The programme has been organised by Academy of Indian Paediatrics at two government schools in Basveshwarnagar, which will include over 150 students from VIII, IX and X standards. Debate, letter writing competition and poster-making, all themed around alcohol and drug abuse will be held. “We have organised talks on alcohol abuse and similar competitions among teenagers from slums as well,” said Dr Aruna Chinappa, consultant paediatrician, Child Central Clinic, Koramangala, and a member of Academy of Indian Paediatrics.

On Friday, Dr Chinappa conducted a similar programme at the Laxman Rao Nagar slum, at Viveknagar. “It is one of the slums with highest adolescent and youth population and we are planning to set up a weekly or fortnightly teen clinic here,” she said.

Early Intervention is the key to change.  Regardless of whether you live in New York or Conneticut, online Alcohol awareness classes for adults and minor in possession classes for those under 21 are a great preventative tactic to reduce alcohol and drug related injuries.

Alcoholics Mask Their Disease Through Deception

Alcoholics lie.  That is part of the disease.  They lie mostly because they are trying to cover up their drinking and habits that they know are wrong.  On an intellectual level, most alcoholics know their drinking is a problem, but the addiction is so strong they often don't know how gain control over it or are ready to get help.

Case in point: Recently I had a patient of mine who I will call Billy.  Billy was married with two kids and had a job as an electrician.  His drinking started when he was in a fraternity at Ohio State University. He woke up at 6am every day and got home at 5pm each night.  He attended his kids baseball and soccer games and from the outside looked like a model father and husband.  What no one knew was that Billy was a closet drinker.  After his kids went to sleep his wife would say, "are you coming to bed?".  His reply would be, "I'll be up soon.".  His wife would then fall asleep and Billy would begin drinking.  By the time he went to bed, and woke up, he was on his way to being sober again and no one knew about it.  The problem was Billy was diagnosed with liver cancer and when the doctor explained to his family why, he said, "well, Billy's drinking is likely the reason".  Everyone was in shock.

Alcoholism isn't always obvious.  For some, it's easy to tell, but for others, its a lie that they live year after year and not getting any help or assistance. 

Here are some signs you might have a drinking problem?

  • Feel guilty or ashamed about your drinking.
  • Lie to others or hide your drinking habits.
  • Have friends or family members who are worried about your drinking.
  • Need to drink in order to relax or feel better.
  • “Black out” or forget what you did while you were drinking.
  • Regularly drink more than you intended to.

One step we all can take to better understand our drinking is to take an online alcohol awareness class.  These courses are accessable and available to anyone and you don't have to worry about being viewed as a alcoholic.  They are totally anonymous.  Education is the key to change and is a critical factor in prevention at any age.

Alcohol Drug Class Launches 4 New Online Drug Awareness Classes

Alcohol Drug Classis an industry leader in providing quality alcohol awareness classes and minor in possession classes online.  They have recently released 4 new programs for those that need to take a Drug Awareness Class or Drug Education Class Online.

These courses include:

College Binge Drinking Linked to Severe Brain Damage and Trauma

New studies link student binge drinking to brain damage and drunken blackouts to higher rates of injury. 

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that 42 percent of American college students engage in what’s known as “binge” drinking.

Tim McQueeny, a doctoral student in the Psychology Department at the University of Cincinnati says scientists are taking notice, and for good reason.

“The peak years of alcohol use are during the years when the brain is still developing, especially 18 to 25 when substance use, such as binge drinking, is most prevalent," he says. "That’s four drinks for girls and five or more for guys.”

Effects on the brain

McQueeny and his advisor, assistant professor Krista Lisdahl Medina, are especially interested in how binge drinking affects the brain during this critical period of development.

“We looked at a very high-resolution picture of the brain, where we can actually measure what’s called cortical thickness," says Lisdahl Medina. "So this is a measure of basically how thick their brain matter is.”

They found that binge-drinking was linked to a thinning of the pre-frontal cortex, a region of the brain with a long list of critical functions including: decision making, controlling attention, the ability to inhibit responses, considering consequences, monitoring one's environment, acting appropriately and inhibiting impulses.

Blackouts and injuries

Another team of U.S. and Canadian scientists is also trying to measure the health consequences of student binge drinking.

Dr. Michael Fleming's team, from Chicago's Feinburg School of Medicine, monitored the occurrence of alcohol-induced blackouts and drinking-related injuries among almost 1,000 students at five universities over a two-year period.

“A blackout is a true period of amnesia, it’s a transient acute memory loss that can last from a couple hours to longer, depending on how much you drank," says Fleming. "So, we wanted to know whether that put students, in particular college students, at higher risk for injury.”

They found that it did. According to Fleming, one in four students accidentally harmed themselves while drinking. And as the number of blackouts rose, so did the rate of physical injuries.

Other studies support these findings. A national comprehensive study found that, in 2001, almost 600,000 college students were injured as a result of alcohol use.


Some universities are stepping up efforts to combat the problem.

Amanda Long, coordinator of Campus Alcohol Programs at the University of Maryland, works to ensure students understand the risks and consequences of alcohol abuse before they even set foot on campus as freshmen.

“We start off by asking them to complete a national three-hour long educational program," says Long. "It is really just a look at alcohol, how it affects students, how it can be a detriment to their progression as a student.”

Once they’re on campus, students continue to get support. Long speaks at freshman orientation, resident advisor training and at events designed to engage high-risk student groups, such as athletic clubs, fraternities and sororities.

At some schools around the country, students are now required to access online alcohol intervention resources such as Alcohol Drug Class, a service administered by San Diego State University in California.

“The program gives the student a personalized feedback about their use of alcohol," says project director Doug Van Sickle, "and how it affects goals and aspirations that are important to them, career and life, relationships, self-esteem, health and fitness, those kinds of things.“

According to Van Sickle, the program doesn’t try to scare students with grim statistics about alcohol-induced brain damage or student deaths.

Instead, the idea is to give students numbers they can understand, like how many calories they consume and how much money they spend during a night out drinking.  Students can also learn about alcohol awareness through Minor in Possession Classes


College Alcohol Awareness Programs on the Rise

College Station Police and the CARE Coalition are working together to educate young adults with a unique approach. They converged on the Northgate entertainment district on a Saturday night to teach a lesson on alcohol safety "in the moment."Portable breath test units, a rollover simulation and a driving course with beer goggles were apart of a new approach by College Station Police and several non-profit groups to reach young adults with a serious message.

"When you're in the moment, you aren't reminded of some of the things you learned in elementary, junior high and high school.This gives the 'in the moment' information," said Kristen Harrell, President of Coalition C.A.R.E.

In the moment, most of the patrons we talked to were surprised by their Blood Alcohol Level.


"I kind of figured I would be half that. Especially since I haven't had anything to drink for a few hours, said Andrew Fairleigh, a Texas A&M student who had a breath alcohol content of 0.076. 0.08 is the level at which an individual is considered intoxicated in the state of Texas.

Police tell us the idea is to give the young adults a reference point of where their blood alcohol level is in hopes of them making more responsible choices.

Barry Ivins, owner of The Corner Bar & Grill told KBTX that he supports the event because it promotes a safer environment for everyone in Northgate.

"Have a responsible atmosphere for people to come out and have a few beverages, have some entertainment, without going too far."

Since 2009, the percentage of alcohol related accidents from year to year in College Station have continued to drop.  More on Texas alcohol awareness classes

According to police, when comparing June 2010 and June 2011, year to date, the number of alcohol related accidents is down by 31%.