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Researchers Link Binge Drinking to Memory Loss

They say ‘youth is wasted on the young,’ and it is true sometimes the wisdom of old age can come in handy to prevent people from taking youthful excesses too far. Sadly, some young people who engage in binge drinking may cause damage to their brains that could affect them when they get older.

Researchers in Spain who concluded that binge drinking may have long-term effects on learning and memory “called for long-term studies that would follow groups of students before and after they started—and stopped—binge drinking regularly. Such studies would clarify the effects of heavy drinking on short-term memory as well as academic performance”

In their studies, the Spanish researchers gave a language and memory tests to a sampling of college students who were 18-20 years old.  About half of the students described themselves as binge drinkers while the rest said there were moderate drinkers of alcohol. The tests were not overly complicated and certainly not anything that college students could not handle.

They found that:

“Binge drinkers performed more poorly than the other group in nearly all the word-based tests, even after the researchers controlled for complicating factors such as a family history of alcoholism, marijuana use, and mental disorders. Compared with their peers, the binge drinkers were more easily distracted by new information, recalled fewer words, and retained about 4 percent less of the information in the stories.”

The researchers summarized that while they could not conclude that binge drinking would definitely make it harder to complete certain tasks, there was a link. Certain parts of the brain are affected by alcohol more than others. The hippocampus is very susceptible to damage from drinking but there have not been any studies to indicate whether that damage is lasting or temporary.

If you know a young person who engages in binge drinking on a regular basis, try to impress upon them the fact that substance abuse can have serious consequences. If the consequences are not apparent right away, sometimes people think they can continue to drink heavily. Even if science never presents evidence that drinking too much alcohol can damage your brain in the long-term, it does plenty of physical damage in the present.