Could Alcohol Impact Your Teen’s DNA?

February 20, 2014

Alcohol abuse is dangerous for anyone, but drinking too much may be particularly harmful to younger individuals. There is a reason why there are laws to keep children from drinking alcohol, and that is because research has shown that not only are kids who drink more likely to develop problems with alcohol as adults than those who do not, they may also be seriously damaging their bodies when they drink.

For example, researchers from Mexico recently conducted a study which found that drinking alcohol can affect the DNA of young people, the research was published in the journal Alcohol. The scientists explained that in the past, studies like this were only conducted on older individuals who had been drinking alcohol for decades, this is the first to examine how the early stages of drinking can impact people’s DNA.

The researchers stated that data shows that there are 2.5 million alcohol-related deaths in the world each year, and 350,000 of these deaths are people between the ages of 19 and 25. The scientists divided students into two groups. The first group did not drink and the second drank during the weekends. They conducted blood tests on the students to determine that they were all healthy. The average amount of alcohol consumed was about a liter and a half of beer.

“We saw that the ones who drank sustained twice as much oxidative damage compared with the group that did not consume alcohol,” researcher Adela Rendon explained.

She added that thankfully, there did not appear to be major damage to the DNA of the students who drink. However, she said that since the students had not been consuming alcohol for very long in their lives, there would ideally have been no damage at all.

“When we talk about youth alcohol abuse, we are referring to youngsters who drink alcohol without having become addicted. Addiction involves a more complex issue socially and psychologically speaking. This is social alcohol abuse, but which causes damage in the long term and you have to be aware of that,” said Rendon.

Reducing drinking in teens

This study highlights the importance of encouraging young people to abstain from alcohol, and drink responsibly once they are of age. The Surgeon General has a guide for communities that are attempting to reduce the number of underage individuals in their town who drink. According to the guide, by the time they are 12 years old, an estimated 10 percent of kids have used alcohol at least once. Furthermore, research has shown that people between the ages of 18 and 20 have a more difficult time controlling their drinking than older individuals.

The Surgeon General pointed out that teen alcohol use often occurs as a result of adults buying alcohol for teens, since kids cannot legally obtain alcohol on their own. Adults need to remember that providing alcohol to minors is a crime, and if those kids drink and drive as a result of consuming the alcohol an adult has provided for them, that adult could be held responsible for what happens.

The guide recommended that adults talk to their kids about drinking when they are still young, since kids who drink before the age of 21 are most likely to start doing so when they are between the ages of 13 and 14.

Parents should consider explaining to their teens that drinking may actually impact their brain. Some teens believe that there is no harm to drinking, and it is important that they know drinking can come with some serious long-term consequences.

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