Young adults with alcohol use disorders exhibit hippocampal alterations and episodic memory deficits. However, it is not known how these difficulties progress in community binge drinking adolescents.
A study analysed the relationship between binge drinking trajectory and verbal episodic memory during the developmental period spanning from adolescence and to early adulthood. An initial sample of 155 male and female first-year university students with no other risk factors were followed over six years. Participants were classified as stable non-binge drinkers, stable binge drinkers and ex-binge drinkers according to the third AUDIT item.
At baseline, participants comprised 36 men/ 40 women non-binge drinkers (18.58 years), 40 men/ 39 women binge drinkers (18.87 years), and at the third follow-up, they comprised 8 men/ 8 women stable non-binge drinkers (25.49 years), 2 men/ 2 women stable binge drinkers (25.40) and 8 men/ 12 women ex-binge drinkers (24.97 years). Episodic memory was assessed four times with the Logical Memory subtest (WMS-III) and the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test. The results showed that, relative to non-binge drinkers, stable binge drinkers presented difficulties in immediate and delayed recall in the Logical Memory subtest. These difficulties remained stable over time.
The short-term ex-binge drinkers continued to display difficulties in immediate and delayed recall in the Logical Memory subtest, but long-term ex-binge drinkers did not. The effects were not influenced by age of alcohol onset, frequency of cannabis use, tobacco use or psychopathological distress.
In conclusion, binge drinking during adolescence and young adulthood is associated with episodic memory deficits. Abandoning the binge drinking pattern may lead to partial recovery. These findings are consistent with the vulnerability of the adolescent hippocampus to the neurotoxic effects of alcohol.
Source: Binge drinking during adolescence and young adulthood is associated with deficits in verbal episodic memory Carbia C; Cadaveira F; Caamano Isorna F; Rodriguez Holguun S; Corral M. PLoS One Vol 12, No 2.2017, Art No e0171393, 17pp.