A significant element of adolescence as a phase of life is hanging out with friends and partying on weekends. Teens are too eager to discover and explore uncharted territories rather than remain under the constant surveillance of their parents. In the entire process of learning more and meeting new people, they stand the increased risk of addictive substances, especially alcohol. The pressure of academics and expectations of their parents can also push them toward alcohol and drugs.
When striking a balance between their own dreams and those imposed by others like school, teachers, parents, etc. becomes impossible, they resort to alcohol and drugs to boost their self-esteem and uplift their mood. Lately, even the hazardous patterns of alcohol consumption like binge drinking has become extremely prevalent among teenagers.
Binge drinking refers to the consumption of a significant amount of alcohol in a single setting. The formal criteria to objectively measure binge drinking episodes as put forth by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) are:
According to a new study, men who drink alcohol in late adolescence are more likely to develop severe liver diseases like liver cirrhosis and experience fatal consequences in adulthood compared to teetotalers. Researchers examined data on alcohol consumption by examining around 43,296 men who entered military service between 1969 and 1970 at 18 to 20 years of age in Sweden. After an average follow-up of almost 38 years, around 383 men were diagnosed with a severe liver disease, including 208 men who succumbed to the problem.
Each daily gram of alcohol typically consumed by men in their youth was associated with a 2 percent increase in the risk of developing a severe liver disease, despite taking into account other independent risk factors for liver damage like obesity, smoking and cardiovascular diseases. The above risk escalated remarkably among heavy drinkers.
The risk is dose-dependent that increased with the rise in the amount of alcohol consumed. The risk was more pronounced in young men drinking two drinks a day or more in their teen years. “Our study showed that how much you drink in your late teens can predict the risk of developing cirrhosis later in life,” said lead researcher Hannes Hagström, MD, PhD, Centre for Digestive Diseases, Division of Hepatology, Karolinska University Hospital.
According to the researchers, the current guidelines for safe levels of alcohol consumption by men need to be reconsidered. Depending on the country, current guidelines recommend not more than two to three drinks a day for men. “If these results lead to lowering the cut-off levels for a ‘safe’ consumption of alcohol in men, and if men adhere to recommendations, we may see a reduced incidence of alcoholic liver disease in the future,” stated Hagström.
Though the study succeeds in adding value to the current knowledge about the problem of alcoholism, it has various limitations. Firstly, it wasn’t a controlled experiment designed to prove the association between early exposure to drinking and development of liver diseases in adulthood. Since researchers relied on the memory of men to report on their drinking habits, they lacked data on binge drinking essential for understanding the effect of alcohol consumption on the liver.
Around 88,000 people died due to alcohol-related causes every year between 2006 and 2010. Moreover, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reports that alcohol is the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States. Although there is no approved treatment for alcohol-related diseases, they are preventable like many other problems. It is essential to take preventive measures to decrease the impact of excessive alcohol consumption.
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