Baylor College of Medicine, USA
Posters-Accepted Abstracts: J Psychol Abnorm Child
Alcohol is the most commonly used and abused substance among youth in the United States. Youth aged 12 to 20 years drink 11% of all alcohol consumed in the United States. 24% of youth drink alcohol and 15% report binge drinking. Youth who start drinking before age fifteen are five times more likely to develop alcohol abuse or dependence later in life than those who begin drinking after age twenty-one. Adolescents who drink are more likely to initiate the use of illegal substances, thus, alcohol is often considered a gateway to the use of other addictive substances. Adolescent alcohol use disorder (AUD) is associated with development of other substance use disorders, depression and higher levels of antisocial and borderline personality disorder symptoms by age 24. MRI studies show bilateral decreased hippocampal volumes in adolescents with AUD compared to controls. Recent studies show the gender gap in underage drinking has been closed. Young females are now equally as likely to have ever drunk alcohol as males. Females are more likely to manifest medical consequences of alcohol use than males. Additionally, adolescent females who drink while pregnant expose the unborn fetus to alcohol which is associated with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, a serious yet preventable cause of intellectual disability. Neuropsychological studies show that in girls; more drinking days in the past year predicted a greater reduction in performance on visuospatial memory including difficulty recalling previously encoded spatial information. Alcohol use in adolescent females has been linked to several mental health conditions. Some studies show a 3-fold increase in attempted suicide in eighth grade females who drink. Child sexual abuse predicted drinking and was related to adolescent sexual abuse which both predicted drinking to regulate emotional experiences in adolescence and later adult binge drinking. Adolescent alcohol use in females is associated with several environmental factors including the influence of parents and peers. An adolescent girl with an older or adult boyfriend is more likely to use alcohol and other drugs and to engage in delinquent behaviors. Adolescence is a period of rapid development where substantial changes are taking place in the brain which lays the foundation for biopsychosocial functioning in the rest of adulthood. Neurocognitive deficits linked to AUDs during this critical developmental period may result in changes in the neuromaturational course with effects extending into adulthood. Research on alcohol�??s effects on the developing adolescent female is currently very limited and much more research attention is needed in this field of study.