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Study: Which teens will become binge drinkers? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Study: Which teens will become binge drinkers?

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

It's a study aimed at stopping the problem before it starts.

"The idea was to recruit a sizable number of 14-year-olds, which is an age before they've starting using drugs and alcohol to a heavy extent, and then follow those kids," said Hugh Garavan, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont.

That group of 2,400 kids were then put through a series of assessments-- everything from personality traits and IQ to family history, blood tests and brain scans-- to help scientists figure out what kinds of risks these kids face that could result in drug and alcohol use, and even mental illness.

"We wanted to identify kids who had had very little alcohol exposure by age 14. So all the kids who had 0 or 1, 2 drinks in their lifetime and then 2 years later which ones had history of binge drinking by 16 and then another group who stayed the same," Garavan said.

The team has been following the group of teenagers for five years and says the assessments were 70 percent accurate in determining who was likely to binge drink. The idea of just how predictable drinking habits can be among teens when considering certain factors is a scary reality for some. So far, they've concluded genetics, family history, home environment and cognitive abilities all play a role.

"I myself would say whether it's nature or nurture, certainly culture is something that can also have a very pernicious effect," said Dennis Mahoney, a professor of German at UVM.

"If you have parents or family members that have a problem with alcohol addiction, then you may be more prone to try it out and you may be more likely to get addicted sooner than other people," said Kayla Rideout, a junior at Essex High School.

The teens are all now 19. Once they're 23, Garavan's team will collect their last set of data. This will help provide a core profile of what traits make a teen likely to begin binge drinking at a young age and continue throughout adolescence. The next step will be to figure out how to stop the cycle. That's where, Garavan says, interventions tailored to each teen's needs come in.

"They're very effective in reducing alcohol and drug use; they're very effective in delaying alcohol and drug use, which is also a very important outcome," Garavan said.

Garavan says it's the only study of its kind, using about 40 different variables to conclude the cause of binge drinking, but it has the potential to help many tackle alcohol and drug abuse.

The study was published in the journal Nature.

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