Experts refer to the experimentation with alcohol during adolescence as “early initiation.” Early initiation is associated with multiple health risks. Immediate risks include injury or risky sexual behaviors that can result in a sexually transmitted disease or unplanned pregnancy.
Long-term risks include an increased likelihood of developing heart disease and some types of cancer. Individuals who begin drinking alcohol in adolescence are more likely to become addicted to alcohol than those who wait until they are adults.
Rodent Alcohol Consumption Study
A novel study published in Headlines & Global News sheds some light on the subject. Conducted by researchers at the University of Washington, the study looked at alcohol consumption among rats between the ages of 30 to 50 days old, which is equivalent to a teenager in human terms. The teenage rats were given alcohol-filled Jell-O shots for 24 hours daily until they reached adulthood.
Risky Behaviors And Rewards Into Adulthood
When the rats reached adulthood, they were administered a test in which they were offered a choice between a smaller risk that resulted in smaller treats, or a bigger risk that resulted in a bigger treat. The rats that had been exposed to alcohol as teenagers were more likely to go for the tasks that had higher levels of risk. The rats were not influenced by the availability of a higher overall number of treats associated with the lower-risk tasks.
The behaviors exhibited by the rats suggest that early consumption of alcohol could impact long-term decision-making abilities. The research was conducted by Abigail Schindler, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington.
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