ADVERTISEMENT
60-Second Science

Drink Now, Pay Later

A study with animals in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that alcohol abuse in adolescence leads to a lifetime of poor decision-making skills. Karen Hopkin reports

[The following is an exact transcript of this podcast.]

We all know that drinking can cloud judgment. That’s why you should never e-mail an ex after you’ve had a few. But for teenagers, doing dumb things now because of alcohol may be just the start. Because research with animals suggests that drinking during adolescence can set you up for a whole lifetime of bad decisions. The study is in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

People who abuse alcohol when they’re young don’t always make good choices as adults. But it’s been unclear whether the drink gives them the stupids, or whether folks prone to poor choices are predisposed to drink.

One way to tackle the question is by studying alcohol intake in animals, like rats. But rats don’t like to drink. So to make the alcohol more palatable, scientists infused it into a tasty “gel matrix”. Yes, the researchers gave teenage rats Jello shots. And the animals’ decision-making ability stayed impaired well into adulthood…as measured by their tendency to chase after rewards with associated high risk rather than taking a sure thing. So, young party animals, remember the words of Faber’s Dean Wormer: “Drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son.”

—Karen Hopkin

Share this Article:

Comments

You must sign in or register as a ScientificAmerican.com member to submit a comment.
Scientific American Special Universe

Get the latest Special Collector's edition

Secrets of the Universe: Past, Present, Future

Order Now >

X

Email this Article

X