Alcoholism may be rooted in teen years

May 6, 2008 at 2:19 PM
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DURHAM, N.C., May 6 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists suggest heavy drinking in adulthood may be traced to teen drinking experiences.

The study, published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, found rats that demonstrated a "taste" for alcohol after only three nights of drinking were very likely to be the biggest drinkers after longer-term exposure.

"We can cautiously extrapolate from rodents to humans. The findings suggest that early 'big drinkers' are the people who should be targeted for alcoholism-prevention efforts," first author Nicole L. Schramm-Sapyta of Duke University School of Medicine says in a statement. "Drinking patterns in adolescents may be set after only a few exposures to alcohol."

The studies in rats also measured drinking right after travel through an elevated maze -- a way to raise anxiety levels and stress-related hormone levels. The rats were also tested for drinking after scientists observed their preference for new objects and for exploring a new place. The results showed stress and novelty seeking were not related to the drinking outcomes in rats.

"This suggests that there are other traits that scientists should be looking for, that are related to the early experiences of drinking," Schramm-Sapyta says.

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