The effects of alcohol consumption in adults are well described in the literature, while knowledge about the effects of alcohol consumption in children is more limited and less systematic. The present review shows how alcohol consumption may negatively influence the neurobiological and neurobehavioral development of humans. Three different periods of life have been considered: the prenatal term, childhood, and adolescence. For each period, evidence of the short-term and long-term effects of alcohol consumption, including neurodevelopmental effects and associations with subsequent alcohol abuse or dependence, is presented.

Aims: To explore norms for alcohol consumption in different parts of Europe, by studying what people mean by "alcohol abuse."

Method: The participants were presented 18 standardized descriptions of different drinking patterns, obtained by systematically varying three levels of frequency of drinking, three levels of intoxication and two levels of context. Random samples of about 1000 persons aged 15 years and over were drawn from each of seven countries: Finland, Germany, Italy (Tuscany), Norway, Poland, Slovenia, and Spain. The participants were asked if they would call each of the descriptions "abuse" or not. As a measure of the "normative climate" in each country, the mean number of descriptions labeled "abuse" was calculated. We also estimated the conditional probabilities for using the different levels of the dimensions (frequency, intoxication, and context), given that the description was labeled "abuse." This gave a quite easy comparison of the relative importance people in each country gave the different dimensions when they evaluated a drinking pattern as "abuse."

Results: Three distinct groups of countries appeared: The Nordic countries had the lowest number of descriptions labeled as "abuse," and Tuscany and Slovenia the highest. The other countries came in the middle.

Conclusion: It seems that norms for alcohol consumption vary geographically over Europe in a way that justifies the often used, but seldom defined, concept of "alcohol culture." Southern European cultural settings suggest a normative system allowing for higher per capita consumption levels but also offering more restrictive informal norms on intoxication. Nordic countries, on the other hand, with their more restrictive alcohol policies, show a pattern of lower per capita consumption levels and less restrictive informal laws governing intoxication during drinking occasions.

Objective: In 2007, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued The Surgeon General's Call To Action To Prevent And Reduce Underage Drinking, a publication documenting a problem linked to nearly 5,000 injury deaths annually and poor academic performance, potential cognitive deficits, risky sexual behavior, physical and sexual assaults, and other substance use. This report reviews subsequent underage drinking and related traffic fatality trends and research on determinants, consequences, and prevention interventions.

Method: New research reports, meta-analyses, and systematic literature reviews were examined. Results: Since the Call to Action, reductions in underage frequency of drinking, heavy drinking occasions, and alcohol-related traffic deaths that began in the 1980s when the drinking age nationally became 21 have continued. Knowledge regarding determinants and consequences, particularly the effects of early-onset drinking, parental alcohol provision, and cognitive effects, has expanded. Additional studies support associations between the legal drinking age of 21, zero tolerance laws, higher alcohol prices, and reduced drinking and related problems. New research suggests that use/lose laws, social host liability, internal possession laws, graduated licensing, and night driving restrictions reduce traffic deaths involving underage drinking drivers. Additional studies support the positive effects of individually oriented interventions, especially screening and brief motivational interventions, web and face-to-face social norms interventions, college web-based interventions, parental interventions, and multicomponent community interventions.

Conclusions: Despite reductions in underage alcohol consumption and related traffic deaths, underage drinking remains an enduring problem. Continued research is warranted in minimally studied areas, such as prospective studies of alcohol and brain development, policy studies of use/lose laws, internal possession laws, social host liability, and parent-family interventions. 

Research shows that multiple factors influence college drinking, from an individual's genetic susceptibility to the positive and negative effects of alcohol, alcohol use during high school, campus norms related to drinking, expectations regarding the benefits and detrimental effects of drinking, penalties for underage drinking, parental attitudes about drinking while at college, whether one is member of a Greek organization or involved in athletics, and conditions within the larger community that determine how accessible and affordable alcohol is. Consequences of college drinking include missed classes and lower grades, injuries, sexual assaults, overdoses, memory blackouts, changes in brain function, lingering cognitive deficits, and death. This article examines recent findings about the causes and consequences of excessive drinking among college students relative to their non-college peers and many of the strategies used to collect and analyze relevant data, as well as the inherent hurdles and limitations of such strategies.




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