Binge Drinking Can Affect Decision Making

Binge drinking, typically associated with college students, may lead to poor decision making. The results of a new study published in the June issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research suggest that among college students, those who binge drink often exhibit poor decision making . Jenny Larkins, a graduate student in clinical psychology at the University of Missouri, claims that alcoholics make poor decisions such as those involving short-term rewards coupled with long-term losses. The problems were associated with mental skills such planning for the future, abstract reasoning, inhibiting or delaying responses, doing two things at once and shifting between activities.

Researchers are already aware that alcoholics have poorer neurocognitive functioning, including decision making, than do non-alcoholics. However, there are few studies about how heavy drinking by those who are not actually addicted to alchohol (binge drinkers) affects decision making.

Researchers examined 200 students in four subgroups based on different binge-drinking lifestyles from pre-college to the sophomore year. These included low-binge drinkers, stable moderate-binge drinkers, increasing binge drinkers, and stable high-binge drinkers. Stable high-binge drinkers, starting at a pre-college age, exhibited diminished decision-making abilities despite being seemingly healthy college students who were not alcoholics.

Researchers believe that adolescence is a period of high sensitivity to the effects of alcohol on the brain. Parents and clinicians should be attentive and active in preventing alcohol abuse by young people who are vulnerable.. Paradoxically, moderate alcohol consumption in adults (one-to-two drinks per day) is consistently associated with lower rates of morbidity and mortality.


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