A study published in the journal Nature has determined the risk factors that contribute to binge drinking in teens. Genetics, brain function and 40 different variables enable scientists to predict which teens will become binge drinkers. Adult alcoholism is a public health risks and as recently identified by the CDC contribute to 88,000 deaths annually.
The researchers conducted 10 hours of assessment including neuro-imaging to assess brain activity and brain structure, along with other measures such as IQ, cognitive task performance, personality and blood tests on 2,400 14-year-old adolescents at eight different sites across Europe. The reliability of the results were confirmed by showing the same accuracy when tested on a new, separate group of teenagers.
The result was a list of predictors that ranged from brain and genetics to personality and personal history factors. Identified risk factors include variables like personality, sensation-seeking traits, lack of conscientiousness, family history of drug use, stressful life and a single drink at age 14. Risk taking behavior with the associated impulsivity was a critical predictor.
“Our goal was to develop a model to better understand the relative roles of brain structure and function, personality, environmental influences and genetics in the development of adolescent abuse of alcohol,” says Whelan the lead study author. “This multidimensional risk profile of genes, brain function and environmental influences can help in the prediction of binge drinking at age 16 years.”
“Notably, it’s not the case that there’s a single one or two or three variables that are critical,” said Garavan the second study author. “The final model was very broad it suggests that a wide mixture of reasons underlie teenage drinking.”
Gunter Schumann, M.D., professor of biological psychiatry and head of the section at the Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, the principle investigator of the IMAGEN study, which is the source of this latest paper commented on the study findings: “We aimed to develop a ‘gold standard’ model for predicting teenage behavior, which can be used as a benchmark for the development of simpler, widely applicable prediction models,” said Schumann. “This work will inform the development of specific early interventions in carriers of the risk profile to reduce the incidence of adolescent substance abuse. We now propose to extend analysis of the IMAGEN data in order to investigate the development of substance use patterns in the context of moderating environmental factors, such as exposure to nicotine or drugs as well as psychosocial stress.”
Robert Whelan, Richard Watts, Catherine A. Orr, Robert R. Althoff, Eric Artiges, Tobias Banaschewski, Gareth J. Barker, Arun L. W. Bokde, Christian Büchel, Fabiana M. Carvalho, Patricia J. Conrod, Herta Flor, Mira Fauth-Bühler, Vincent Frouin, Juergen Gallinat, Gabriela Gan, Penny Gowland, Andreas Heinz, Bernd Ittermann, Claire Lawrence, Karl Mann, Jean-Luc Martinot, Frauke Nees, Nick Ortiz, Marie-Laure Paillère-Martinot, Tomas Paus, Zdenka Pausova, Marcella Rietschel, Trevor W. Robbins, Michael N. Smolka, Andreas Ströhle, Gunter Schumann, Hugh Garavan, Lisa Albrecht, Mercedes Arroyo, Semiha Aydin, Christine Bach, Alexis Barbot, Zuleima Bricaud, Uli Bromberg, Ruediger Bruehl, Anna Cattrell, Katharina Czech, Jeffrey Dalley, Sylvane Desrivieres, Tahmine Fadai, Birgit Fuchs, Fanny Gollier Briand, Kay Head, Bert Heinrichs, Nadja Heym, Thomas Hübner, Albrecht Ihlenfeld, James Ireland, Nikolay Ivanov, Tianye Jia, Jennifer Jones, Agnes Kepa, Dirk Lanzerath, Mark Lathrop, Hervé Lemaitre, Katharina Lüdemann, Lourdes Martinez-Medina, Xavier Mignon, Ruben Miranda, Kathrin Müller, Charlotte Nymberg, Jani Pentilla, Jean-Baptiste Poline, Luise Poustka, Michael Rapp, Stephan Ripke, Sarah Rodehacke, John Rogers, Alexander Romanowski, Barbara Ruggeri, Christine Schmäl, Dirk Schmidt, Sophia Schneider, Markus Schroeder, Florian Schubert, Wolfgang Sommer, Rainer Spanagel, David Stacey, Sabina Steiner, Dai Stephens, Nicole Strache, Maren Struve, Amir Tahmasebi, Lauren Topper, Helene Vulser, Bernadeta Walaszek, Helen Werts, Steve Williams, C. Peng Wong, Juliana Yacubian, Veronika Ziesch. Neuropsychosocial profiles of current and future adolescent alcohol misusers. Nature, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/nature13402