Binge Drinking At Early Ages Impairs Decision-Making Skills

College students who drink heavily but are not necessarily alcoholics have poor decision-making skills, according to a study by psychologists at the University of Missouri. Only those students who start drinking when they were younger showed poor skills.

This was a four-year study of 200 Michigan University students. Dr. Anna Goudriaan, Dr. Kenneth Sher and their colleagues classified the participants into four categories: low binge drinkers, moderate binge drinkers, increasing binge drinkers and high binge drinkers. A drinking binge is defined as having five drinks in one sitting.

Participants took tests of decision-making strategies that measure a person’s ability to make advantageous choices.

Those students who were in the high alcohol use category made riskier and less advantageous choices. Only those with the longest histories of drinking scored poorly.

“There is reason to think that heavy binge drinking during adolescence, when the brain is rapidly developing, may have some negative legacy on psychological development,” Dr. Sher wrote in a summary of the study which appears in the June issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.