Preference for Alcohol in Adolescence May Lead to Heavy Drinking

May 5, 2008

Scientists at Duke University Medical Center have shown a connection between early drinking patterns and a tendency to be a heavy drinker in adulthood, in a study of adolescent rats.

"Drinking patterns in adolescents may be set after only a few exposures to alcohol," said Nicole L. Schramm-Sapyta, research associate in the Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology at Duke University School of Medicine. "Rats that demonstrated a 'taste' for alcohol after only three nights of drinking were very likely to be the biggest drinkers after longer-term exposure."

During the first three nights of the study, the rats were given only alcohol to consume. After that, for 10 days, they had a choice of water or alcohol. Their drinking was measured right after they had traveled through an elevated maze, a way to raise anxiety levels and measure stress-related hormone levels. They also were tested for drinking after scientists observed their preference for new objects and for exploring a new place.

"We decided to examine stress and novelty seeking because these are two characteristics we see among people who develop problem drinking," said Schramm-Sapyta, first author of the study published in the May issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. The study was funded by grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The scientists found that the rats that drank the most on the third day of the study also consumed the most alcohol in the later days of the study. The rodents sobered up for two days without any alcohol and again were given a choice. When the alcohol was returned, those that drank heavily at the beginning of the experiment returned to their habit.

However, the scientists learned that stress and novelty seeking were not related to drinking outcomes. "This suggests that there are other traits that scientists should be looking for, that are related to the early experiences of drinking," said Schramm-Sapyta.

Based on the fact that rats are mammals with a genome similar to that of humans, Schramm-Sapyta said, "We can cautiously extrapolate from rodents to humans. The findings suggest that early 'big drinkers' are the people who should be targeted for alcoholism-prevention efforts."

"The studies that we have done in rats have not yet been done in humans to our knowledge," she added. "One reason that rats are particularly useful in studies like these is that we can control the opportunity for exposure to alcohol, which we can't do with human adolescents."

Controlling for environment and opportunities to drink is impossible and unethical to do in studies with teenagers, she explained. "We can't take a group of teenagers and experimentally dictate who drinks and who doesn't, because of the risk of long-term health consequences."

Future studies for this research team will focus on causes for those early drinking behaviors – be it the sedative effect of alcohol, avoidance of after-effects or different types of metabolism.

Source: Duke University

Explore further: Women urged to give up alcohol before conceiving

Related Stories

Women urged to give up alcohol before conceiving

November 14, 2017
Women who consume alcohol around the time of conception could be putting their male offspring at greater risk of obesity in later life.

Study with rats suggests drinking alcohol increases risk of addiction to cocaine

November 2, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers working at Columbia University has found a possible link between prior use of alcohol and an increased risk of cocaine addiction. In their paper published on the open access site Science ...

Consumption of nicotine in adolescence may lead to increased alcohol intake later in life

November 10, 2017
Researchers have long known that there is a link between nicotine and alcohol consumption. But the nature of the connection—how long it lasts, which begets which—remains a mystery.

It's not just mums who need to avoid alcohol when trying for a baby

November 7, 2017
Abstaining from alcohol during preconception and pregnancy is usually considered to be the woman's responsibility. The main concern surrounding alcohol exposure during pregnancy often relates to well-established evidence ...

There is no safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy, new study shows

October 24, 2017
Any amount of alcohol exposure during pregnancy can cause extreme lasting effects on a child, according to new research from Binghamton University, State University of New York.

Sugar in the diet may increase risks of opioid addiction

October 16, 2017
Could a diet high in refined sugars make children and adults more susceptible to opioid addiction and overdose? New research, from our laboratory of behavioral neuroscience at the University of Guelph, suggests it could.

Recommended for you

Female researchers pay more attention to sex and gender in medicine

November 7, 2017
When women participate in a medical research paper, that research is more likely to take into account the differences between the way men and women react to diseases and treatments, according to a new study by Stanford researchers.

Drug therapy from lethal bacteria could reduce kidney transplant rejection

August 3, 2017
An experimental treatment derived from a potentially deadly microorganism may provide lifesaving help for kidney transplant patients, according to an international study led by investigators at Cedars-Sinai.

Exploring the potential of human echolocation

June 25, 2017
People who are visually impaired will often use a cane to feel out their surroundings. With training and practice, people can learn to use the pitch, loudness and timbre of echoes from the cane or other sounds to navigate ...

Team eradicates hepatitis C in 10 patients following lifesaving transplants from infected donors

April 30, 2017
Ten patients at Penn Medicine have been cured of the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) following lifesaving kidney transplants from deceased donors who were infected with the disease. The findings point to new strategies for increasing ...

'bench to bedside to bench': Scientists call for closer basic-clinical collaborations

March 24, 2017
In the era of genome sequencing, it's time to update the old "bench-to-bedside" shorthand for how basic research discoveries inform clinical practice, researchers from The Jackson Laboratory (JAX), National Human Genome Research ...

The ethics of tracking athletes' biometric data

January 18, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—Whether it is a FitBit or a heart rate monitor, biometric technologies have become household devices. Professional sports leagues use some of the most technologically advanced biodata tracking systems to ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.