TUESDAY, Oct. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Heavy alcohol and marijuana use puts teenagers at risk for mental deficits that could persist into adulthood, according to a new study.
The researchers found that teens who had abused alcohol and pot scored lower than their abstinent peers on tests measuring a wide range of intellectual abilities.
Robert Thoma, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, the study's lead author, said the researchers wanted to see if heavy substance abuse caused "neuropsychological deficits" in teens similar to those already shown in adult alcoholics and drug abusers.
"The worry is that kids who start drinking early, and drinking heavily, may be affected for their entire life. The data is just beginning to suggest this is true," said Thoma, a clinical neuropsychologist.
Thoma said the study is "too small to make any pronouncements," but is one of the first to show such deficits in teens with substance abuse problems.
Memory was also negatively affected but only by marijuana, not alcohol use, the study found.
Teens who did not use alcohol or drugs but had an alcoholic parent showed deficits on a test measuring "visuospatial ability." Visuospatial ability is the kind of non-verbal thinking involved in creative pursuits such as architecture, music or art.
The study, reported online Oct. 19 in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, placed 48 teenagers, aged 12 to 18, into three groups: 19 in a substance-abusing study group, 15 healthy non-users in a control group and 14 non-users whose parents had been alcohol abusers. All 19 substance abusers were diagnosed with alcohol addiction or dependency. Twelve were also diagnosed with marijuana dependency.
The study-group teens, who were two years older on average than the others, reported drinking six to 20 drinks a day d
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