Binge-drinking teens could be harming their memories

Teenagers who binge on alcohol could be affecting the part of the brain that controls memory, a new study has shown.

Researchers at the Scripps Research Institute in California found that binge drinking could lead to teenagers being forgetful and absent minded in the future.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has thrown its weight behind the campaign to crack down on binge drinking by calling for minimum pricing to be introduced in England.


The research on binge drinking was done on Rhesus monkeys who were given large amounts of alcohol over a short period of time.

It was found that the production of cells in the part of the monkey’s brain that controls memory, the hippocampus, decreased by 80 to 90 per cent.

Chitra Mandyam, from the Scripps Research Institute, said: “It’s very devastating to see what chronic binge drinking does to the adolescent brain”.


The researcher commented: “The public expects adolescence to be an age when you try new things and you can fight out stuff”.

“But when you’re still developing as an individual, if you change the capacity of the brain to maintain whatever it’s trying to maintain, you alter the balance of the brain as it grows”, she said.

The findings are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).


NICE’s call for a minimum price on alcohol per unit in England came in new guidance looking at the effect excessive drinking is having on society and the NHS.

The guidance stops short of recommending a figure for a minimum price. Some experts have called for a 40p or 50p price per unit.

The coalition Government agrees that alcohol abuse is a problem, and has pledged to look into controversial 24-hour drinking laws, but it says minimum pricing is not the best way forward.


Critics say minimum pricing could hit responsible drinkers.

Prof Mike Kelly, the public health director at NICE, said: “Alcohol misuse is a major public health concern which kills thousands of people every year and causes a multitude of physical, behavioural and mental health problems.

“It is clear that policy change is the best way to go about transforming the country’s unhealthy relationship with alcohol”, he added.


NICE’s guidance also recommends a complete ban on alcohol advertising.

In March eight children’s charities backed Scottish Government plans for minimum pricing.

The call to put “children’s interests at the heart of alcohol policy” was supported by the NSPCC’s ChildLine service in Scotland as well as Children 1st; Aberlour; YouthLink Scotland; Barnardo’s Scotland; Action for Children Scotland; Quarriers; and Parenting across Scotland.

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