Heavy drinking during pregnancy disrupts proper brain development in children and adolescents years after they were exposed to alcohol in the womb. That is according to a study supported by the NIH's National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). The study is the first to track children over several years using brain imaging technology (MRI) to examine how heavy exposure to alcohol when still in the womb affects brain growth over time. According to Ken R. Warren, Ph.D., acting director of NIAAA, "It underscores that heavy drinking during pregnancy often has lasting consequences for a child's growth and development, and reminds us that women who are, who may be, or who are trying to become pregnant, should not drink alcohol."
Physicians often fail to counsel their young adult patients about excessive alcohol use, according to a study supported by the NIAAA. "Two-thirds of the people surveyed had been seen by a doctor in the past year," says Ralph Hingson, Sc.D., director of NIAAA's division of epidemiology and prevention research. "However, only 34 percent of young adults between ages 18 and 25 were asked about drinking by their doctors."
Studies have shown that screening and counseling by health care providers—asking patients about alcohol use and advising them to reduce risky drinking—can promote significant, lasting reductions in drinking levels and alcohol-related problems. Remember, "low risk" doesn't mean "no risk."
To Find Out More
NIAAA and MedlinePlus have many research-based information resources to help the public better understand alcohol use and abuse.
- MedlinePlus www.medlineplus.gov Type "alcohol" into the Search MedlinePlus box
- Rethinking Drinking—web site and downloadable booklet www.rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov/default.asp
- Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders web page www.niaaa.nih.gov/research/major-initiatives/fetal-alcohol-spectrum-disorders.
- Spectrum e-zine story: Underage drinking: One step forward, many more to go www.spectrum.niaaa.nih.gov/archives/v4i1Feb2012/features/UnderageDrinking.html
- Focus on Young Adult drinking pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh284/toc28-4.htm
- Use and Misuse of alcohol among older women pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh26-4/308-315.htm
- Older adults and alcohol problems pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Social/Module10COlderAdults/Module10C.html