Binge-Drinkers May be Putting Their Mental Health at Risk

Young adults do not consider the long-term effects of binge-drinking. But a new study reveals that this type of alcohol consumption could lead to impaired cognitive functioning. A study involving 29 binge-drinkers, ranging in age 18-25, examined the brain scans of the drinkers to determine what effect this behavior had. The research revealed that binging, consuming more than five drinks for males or more than four for females, caused cortical thinning in the pre-frontal cortex. Because this region of the brain is related to several executive functions, such as planning, processing emotions, impulse control and attention, the implications are significant. The study, the first of its kind to examine this relationship, showed a clear link between gray matter and binge drinking. Researchers still hope to pursue how this affects the brain’s white matter. Tim McQueeny, doctoral student at the University of Cincinnati’s Department of Psychology, and researcher on the study, says, “Alcohol might be neurotoxic to the neuron cells, or, since the brain is developing in one’s 20’s, it could be interacting with developmental factors and possibly altering the ways in which the brain is still growing.”

Statistics show that over 40 percent of young people have participated in binge drinking at one time or another, but it’s the future ramifications of this behavior that concern McQueeny. “In the past, in terms of what’s known about the physical toll of alcohol, the focus on neurobiology has been in pathological populations and adult populations who were disproportionately male, so there was a significant gap in research in terms of when people started risky drinking. We’re looking at developmental aspects at an age when binge drinking rates are highest, and we’re also looking at gender effects,” says McQueeny. “There might actually be indications of early micro-structural damage without the onset of pathological symptoms such as abuse, or dependence on alcohol.”

© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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    July 2nd, 2011 at 4:34 PM

    You see so much of this type of abuse in the college sector, and many times it leads to not just long term damage but even death. And for the most part these are smart kids who end up making incredibly dumb decisions!

  • Samantha Scott

    Samantha Scott

    July 2nd, 2011 at 7:31 PM

    I wish young men and women would realize it’s not cool, manly or glamorous to be knocking back shots or beer for a whole night. It’s well known that alcohol will rot your brain.

    Addictions are entwined heavily with your psychological state, and alcoholism is one of the most destructive and common addictions around.

  • G.H.


    July 2nd, 2011 at 8:11 PM

    You would think that young adults would know the dangers of long-term drinking if they have an alcoholic parent. I have an alcoholic mother that I have excluded from my life completely. I know how to drink responsibly, unlike her–or perhaps I should say because of her.

    I stop when I have had enough, which is usually a couple of glasses of wine. I don’t understand why some drink until they are physically sick and call that a good night out the next day!

  • Lewis P.

    Lewis P.

    July 2nd, 2011 at 11:19 PM

    Study after study has shown just how harmful alcohol can get,especially in large quantities. WTH seethe governments doing? Do they know nothing other than being slaves to their rich tax and kickbacks paying masters of the corporate world?!

  • Gaye


    July 3rd, 2011 at 8:13 AM

    My son died last year as a result of binge drinking at a fraternity party. Believe me there is a lot more at stake when you participate in this kind of behavior than just your mental health. Unfortunately Ben had to die for all of us to realize that.

  • Tabitha Patton

    Tabitha Patton

    July 3rd, 2011 at 10:53 PM

    Depending on what you drink, a few glasses can be enough to be considered binge drinking. A single bottle of vodka will send a full-grown man into a drunken stupor, but a bottle of cheap wine can be consumed and shrugged off by many. The percentage alcohol content matters.

  • nigelwhite


    July 3rd, 2011 at 11:06 PM

    @Gaye: Gaye, I’m very sorry for your loss of your son Ben. That breaks my heart. May you and your family find comfort and peace some day. Bless you.

  • Ailsa Douglas

    Ailsa Douglas

    July 3rd, 2011 at 11:17 PM

    We need to stop teaching our kids “Don’t drink until you’re 21”. A 21 year old does not know any better about sensible drinking habits than a 12 year old. What’s needed is for them to be taught in high school about responsible drinking, well before they hit the legal age to buy it.

    What that is is simple. Know how much you can handle and don’t go above that under any circumstances. Be aware of the warning signs that you’ve had too much or are drinking too often. Get help if you feel you can’t control your drinking.



    July 3rd, 2011 at 11:49 PM

    I have to agree that youngsters don’t really consider the I’ll effects of binge drinking and may tend to go overboard.The right awareness about this can help because most kids who indulge in binge drinking do not know.

  • Peggy Dunn

    Peggy Dunn

    July 3rd, 2011 at 11:55 PM

    The more complicated and sophisticated something is, the more ways it can be damaged. The brain is absolutely no exception to this. The fact is, alcohol is a toxic substance and impairs your brain and if you don’t know that you should before you take your first ever sip. A rather obvious statement that binge drinking puts your mental health at risk there. The ramifications of your eventual alcoholism will go way beyond that.

  • Sarah George

    Sarah George

    July 4th, 2011 at 10:50 AM

    You have to think that on some level these kids who over indulge know that it can’t be safe. But what are their friends who are letting them do this til they sre so stinking drunk? I would be looking for a new set of friends personally.

  • sanDune


    July 4th, 2011 at 11:28 PM

    some things are fine only in moderate quantities and alcohol leads the pack of such things. incessant consumption will always lead to bad results.

  • Steph


    July 5th, 2011 at 4:38 AM

    While I think that getting the message out here is important, I think that it is even more important to get the message out to college campuses. I think that there are too many college students especially who think that this is not going to happen to them, and too many other casual drinkers who think that they are in control enough so that this could not happen. But we see too many instances every year of someone indeed getting out of control and then losing their life. Drinking does not have to be this way. We need to do better at educating others about responsible drinking and the dangers of irresponsible drinking. We are not talking just a DUI here- we are talking about a case of life and death.

  • Ron


    July 5th, 2011 at 10:12 AM

    Why do people abuse alcohol rather than using it as a drink? Why the excessive amounts? It’s because such people are immature at least when it cones to alcohol and there’s probably no other explanation for it.

  • Nan


    July 5th, 2011 at 4:01 PM

    Think about the damage that this kind of drinking inflicts on your body! Why even go there?



    July 6th, 2011 at 7:17 AM

    Hey,all you guys out there who can’t stop talking about your “capacity”, your brain is not as fit and healthy as mine…haha ;)

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