Teen Rats That Like to Party Often Become Alcoholic Adult Rats
Duke University researchers say that by examining how much alcohol teen rats drink after only 3 days of exposure, they can predict fairly well which rats will drink heavily later in life.
Teens that drink heavily on only a few occasions during adolescence are at a greater risk for later in life alcohol problems – teen rats anyway.
Duke University researcher, Dr. Nicole L. Schramm-Sapyta, led a federal govt. funded study using rats as an animal model to explore adolescent drinking patterns. She found that by examining drinking levels during adolescence, she could accurately predict which rats would rink heavily later in life.
In the study, "teen" rats were given only alcohol to drink for three days, and the researchers recorded how much alcohol the rats drank on that third day. The rats were then given a choice of water or alcohol for the next ten days. The rats that drank most heavily on the third day of the study also drank more heavily throughout the following ten days. They got "a taste for it".
These same rats, when denied access to alcohol, and then once again given the choice between alcohol and water, again drank more alcohol than normal.
The researchers say that since rats are a fairly reliable animal model for human behaviors, if early heavy drinking in rats leads to heavier drinking later in life, it probably does for humans as well. The scientists say that we may want to explore interventions and prevention projects that target aggressively those teens that drink heavily at a young age, knowing their risk for later in life alcoholism and other alcohol related problems.
The full study can be read in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.