The positive reinforcement of social networking sites can increase behaviors like binge drinking

Social-media sites – for example, Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook – that provide clear networking functions such as liking, sharing, commenting, and personal messaging with other users or “followers” are popular among youth. They have also become a prime milieu for the socialization of young people’s alcohol use. These results and others will be shared at the 44th annual scientific meeting of the Research Society on Alcoholism (RSA), which will be held virtually this year from the 19th – 23rd of June 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Why Did You Drink Yesterday?” Young Adults’ Drinking Intensity is Associated with Their Motives for Drinking on that Day

The amount of alcohol an individual consumes on a given day, and the consequences of that drinking, vary according to their motives for drinking. The findings are from a study among young adults reported in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. ‘High-intensity’ drinking, defined as 8+ drinks for women or 10+ drinks for men (i.e. twice the binge-drinking threshold), is a particularly risky level of drinking that is common among young adults. Because individuals may engage in high-intensity drinking on some days but not others, identifying risk factors for high-intensity drinking on a given day is critical for developing real-time interventions to reduce harm. Drinking motives – a person’s reasons for using alcohol – are known to be linked to alcohol use at a particular time, and also vary across drinking days. Certain motives, for example those related to enjoying the feeling of intoxication or enhancing the fun of a gathering, have been previously linked to higher alcohol con

Dual health-risk behaviors in young adults: Problem drinking and maladaptive eating both linked to the brain’s reward pathway and impulsivity

Risky drinking often co-occurs with maladaptive eating in young adults, according to a study reported in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. While previous research had suggested a link between heavy alcohol use and obesity-related factors in college students, the latest study aimed to identify specific profiles of problematic drinking, food addiction, and obesity within a more diverse sample of community-dwelling young people. The researchers also explored shared theoretical risk factors for heavy drinking and overeating, and how these differ across the profiles. Calorie-dense food and alcohol both require little effort to obtain and consume, and each generates immediate and potent experiences of reward in the brain. According to ‘reinforcer pathology’ theory, people who place a high value (‘demand’) on unhealthy items, and who also favor small immediate rewards (such as food and alcohol) over larger delayed rewards (such as health), are at highest risk for overconsumption

Against the Clock: Circadian Rhythm Genes in Key Brain Region are Involved in Binge Drinking

Researchers have identified a causal link between binge drinking and circadian clock genes in a brain region previously implicated in hazardous alcohol use. Binge drinking is a common and harmful pattern of alcohol use, responsible for more than half of alcohol-related deaths. There is already robust evidence that genes involved in controlling circadian rhythm — the body’s natural processes that follow a 24 hour light/dark cycle — are associated with hazardous drinking and alcohol abuse. However, it is not known which areas of the brain mediate the clock genes’ effects on drinking. A brain region known as the nucleus accumbens shell (NAcSh) is already noted for its role in risky drinking; the region forms part of the brain’s ‘reward system’, reinforcing the use of alcohol and other addictive substances by release of dopamine. In the new study, reported in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, scientists investigated whether clock genes in the NAcSh are involved in regulating

Huge Study Links Risky Drinking with Low Social Support and Area of Residence

People who report having low social support are substantially more likely to experience heavy drinking and binge drinking than those who feel more supported, a large European study suggests. The researchers also found strong evidence that risky drinking is associated with areas of residence. Although alcohol use is known to be linked to social, economic, and demographic factors, the research is incomplete; it is not clear to what extent some of these factors, especially environmental conditions, predict dangerous drinking. Investigators in Spain designed a study that was unusual in exploring both heavy drinking and binge drinking and both individual and contextual (environmental) factors. The study, in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, confirmed individual risk factors and highlighted certain environmental conditions that may help target interventions for those at risk.

One size does not fit all for young-adult binge-drinkers: Research reveals high-risk clusters that may inform future trajectories and treatment interventions

Young adults who binge drink can be categorized within distinct subgroups based on substance use and mental health symptoms, according to research reported in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. Binge drinking in young people is very common and linked to adverse outcomes including academic underachievement, risky behaviors, alcohol poisoning, other substance use, and harm to the brain. While some ‘age out’ of binge-drinking in their mid-to-late 20s, others continue with harmful patterns of alcohol use. Previous research has shown that other substance use and mental health indicators vary widely among binge-drinking youth, and could help explain the differences in trajectories. It is also important to understand young people’s motivation for drinking alcohol to inform why some people naturally reduce and others persist or worsen. In the new study, researchers sought to identify distinct patterns of drinking, drug use, and mental health symptoms among young binge drinkers, an

Heavy-drinking Rodents Enhance Understanding of Problematic Alcohol Use Patterns

New study findings in mice suggest that repeated binge drinking increases the motivation to consume alcohol to excess. In humans, the pattern of drinking (as well as quantity consumed) can be an important indicator of future drink problems; in adolescents, for example, a binge-drinking pattern can predict development of alcohol use disorder (AUD). Studies using laboratory animals that have been selectively bred to drink alcohol (ethanol) in large amounts can provide valuable insights on problematic drinking patterns, using experimental approaches that would be impossible or unethical to apply in humans. Indeed, many important findings on responses to alcohol have been gained from animal studies, conducted to strict welfare guidelines. The latest study, reported in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, examined two behaviors in mice that reflect their motivation to experience alcohol’s rewarding effects on the brain.

Female college students more affected academically by high alcohol use than men

Female college students appear to be more affected by high alcohol use than men, which may lead to less interest in academics, according to new research including by faculty at Binghamton University, State University of New York.

To BOLDly Go (or No-go): Brain imaging predicts frequent binge drinking in adolescents

A study published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research could inform efforts to prevent adolescents from escalating to harmful patterns of drinking. Binge drinking in adolescence has many short- and long-term heath consequences, including risk of future alcohol use disorder and potential for harm to the developing brain. The risks are greatest for those who binge frequently – at least once a week. A hallmark of binge drinking is a reduced capacity to control one’s alcohol intake, related to a neurological process of ‘inhibitory control’ involving several regions of the brain. In adolescents who have not yet started drinking, specific alterations in these brain responses have been linked to an increased risk of future alcohol and drug use; however, it was not known if there are changes that could predict escalation of alcohol use among those already drinking. Therefore, researchers from the University of California investigated whether abnormal brain patterns co

Moderate to Heavy Drinking During Pregnancy Alters Genes in Newborns, Mothers

Mothers who drink moderate to high levels of alcohol during pregnancy may be changing their babies’ DNA, according to a Rutgers-led study.