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New risk factors for alcohol abuse in adolescents brought to light

An international team involving researchers from INSERM, CEA and APHP in France have successfully modelled the risk factors for alcohol abuse during adolescence. The results of the study were published on Nature Magazine’s website on 2 July.

In France, alcohol consumption most often begins in adolescence. Today, 80% of 17-year-olds admit to having consumed alcohol in the last 30 days. Recent studies have shown that adolescents are particularly vulnerable to the neurotoxic effects of alcohol. Early alcohol consumption has also been identified as a major risk factor in the emergence of alcohol dependence in adults.

Working under the European research project IMAGEN, dedicated to the study of risk-taking behaviours in teenagers, an international team – involving, in France, INSERM*, CEA and APHP researchers, based at I2BM – successfully modelled the risk factors for binge drinking [1] in 14-year-olds. Of relatively equal “bearing” were: life events, above all, romantic relationships; distinct brain structure and functioning in those areas involved in regulating pleasure and impulsiveness; and specific personality traits. Follow-up studies on teenagers aged 14 to 16 showed these factors to be predictors of binge drinking at age 16; in addition, their predictive value was found to be extendable to other types of alcohol abuse in adolescence. The study suggests risk factors that can be used for targeted prevention of alcoholism and is exemplary as a multi-disciplinary scientific approach to psychological disorders starting in adolescence. Nearly half of all psychiatric diseases start at this stage of life.

* INSERM – CEA 1000 Joint Unit “Neuro-Imagery and Psychiatry”

[1] The practice of consuming large amounts of alcohol in a short amount of time, in young people.

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