Long-term effects of alcohol use on adolescent brain development
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Alcohol use entails high medical, social and economic costs for our society. Despite laws restricting the age of alcohol users, alcohol use in young Dutch adolescents is quite common. Alcohol consumption among adolescents is characterized by frequent drinking and drinking in high quantities. At the same time during adolescence, the brain undergoes many developmental changes, particularly in the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, and mesocorticolimbic dopamine system. Human and rodent studies revealed that adolescent alcohol use can cause brain damage and long-term detrimental neurocognitive effects, for example for executive functioning and memory and learning abilities. Moreover, evidence suggests that early onset and high-risk alcohol use among adolescents increases the risk for later alcohol abuse and addiction. Suggestions are given for future research to further elucidate the effect of alcohol use on adolescent brain development and to minimize the negative consequences of this alcohol use. Finally, recommendations for the prevention of underage drinking are discussed.