Brain Research: A Focus on Childhood Trauma and Alcohol Misuse

NIAAA Spectrum / Volume 13, Issue 2

News reports of college drinking tragedies, and concerns about increased access to alcohol in the home during the pandemic, make clear that COVID-19 has provided no reprieve from the problems of underage drinking. A perennial public health priority, alcohol misuse by young people increases the likelihood of myriad serious consequences, including altered brain development, academic problems, unsafe sexual behavior, physical and sexual assault, traffic crashes, injuries, overdoses, and alcohol use disorder (AUD).

To be sure, efforts to reduce underage drinking have seen success in recent decades. Epidemiological data from the annual Monitoring the Future survey, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, show that by 2020, proportional declines in the prevalence of binge drinking, following recent peaks reached in the 1990s, were 66 percent, 60 percent, and 47 percent for grades 8, 10, and 12, respectively.

George. F. Koob, Ph.D., Director of National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), notes “We are indeed making progress at reducing alcohol misuse among adolescents and young adults; however, the declines have been larger among males than females, and trends in serious alcohol-related harms have not matched the trends in drinking prevalence. Also, drinking to cope with stress is a growing concern.”

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