Alcoholism & Addiction

Heavy Alcohol Consumption and Negative Teen Side Effects

When a teenager experiments with alcohol for the first time it’s called early initiation. This is a serious concern because many teens that use alcohol recreationally develop a dependence by the time they reach adulthood.

In addition to the increased risk of addiction, there are many immediate risks associated with adolescent alcohol consumption, including risky sexual behaviors that can result in an unplanned pregnancy or the transmission of a sexually transmitted disease. There is also an increased risk of injury and involvement in a vehicular crash.

In cases in which an individual has sustained an injury related to drinking they may face an extended recovery time if a broken bone is involved. Anecdotal evidence lead the researchers to conduct animal studies in mice.

The study by researchers at Illinois’ Loyola University Medical Center showed that cellular and molecular processes are affected by alcohol. Their findings could lead to improved treatments for bone fractures for individuals that drink heavily, but they could also improve treatment for those that do not drink.

The mice in the study were split into two groups, one of which received alcohol doses equal to three times the legal limit for operating a vehicle. The control group received saline.

The researchers found that there were differences between the control group mice and the alcohol-exposed mice in the callus, a hard bony tissue that is found on the ends of broken bones. The mice that had been heavily exposed to alcohol had callus that was less mineralized, which indicated that there was less bone formation, and the bone that was formed was weaker among the mice that had alcohol. In addition, the mice that were given alcohol exhibited signs of oxidative stress, which impairs basic cellular function.

The mice also exhibited a decreased level of OPN, a protein that carries stem cells to the site of an injury. The stem cells are not fully mature, but when they arrive at an injury site, they mature into bone cells. A lower level of OPN indicates that the stem cells are not being carried efficiently to the injury site.

The study,  led by John Callaci, Ph.D., was presented by the researchers at the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research’s Annual Meeting in Baltimore and funded by the Orthopedic Research and Education Foundation.

Roman Natoli, MD, Ph.D., who presented the findings at the meeting, said that there are many bone fractures that occur within the context of heavy drinking, whether due to a fall or car accident.

Natoli plans a follow-up study to further expand the knowledge about alcohol’s impact on bone fracture recovery, along with testing potential treatments, such as the injection of stem cells to improve recovery. Another possibility Natoli will test is the administering of an antioxidant that could decrease the level of oxidative stress that occurs with an injury that involves alcohol.

The information gained by the study can be used to develop effective treatments that encourage faster recovery from a bone fracture, for those affected by heavy drinking as well as non-heavy drinkers.

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