NEWS — 09 July 2014

binge

By staff reporter

A GROUP of international scientists including members of University College Dublin claim they have found a way to predict when teens are likely to binge-drink, with a mix of 40 factors such as brain structure, major life events and personality used to carry out the test.

The researchers say it can predict, with 70% accuracy, which 14-year-olds are likely to binge-drink at the age of 16, though the test is currently impractical given the cost of brain scans, at thousands of pounds per person.

Dr Robert Whelan, of University College Dublin, said: “There is no one really big thing. It’s a bunch of little things adding up to give you this prediction.

“There are three main areas: brain activity and brain structure; personality, so seeking out new things to do increases the risk, whereas conscious tends to make you less likely to binge-drink; and then life events, such as a boyfriend or girlfriend, is highly predictive.”

He warned, though, that the test was not accurate enough yet to test individuals, though a group of young people could be tested together to find, for example, the top 200 at higher risk and give them special intervention.

Dr Whelan added that it was important to identify those at risk of binge drinking because studies had shown alcohol has “neurotoxic effects which carry on into adulthood”.

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