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NIH MedlinePlus the Magazine, Trusted Health Information from the National Institutes of Health

Alcohol Use and Abuse

Understanding Alcohol Use Across Your Lifespan

Alcohol use and the risk for alcohol-related problems change over a person's lifespan. Understanding how alcohol affects people across different life stages is important in diagnosing, treating, and preventing alcohol abuse, according to research from the NIH's National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

Infancy Adolescence Young Adulthood Midlife Seniors
Up to one in 100 children in the United States is born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). This is a group of behavior and developmental conditions, one or more of which can occur when a woman consumes alcohol while pregnant. Fetal alcohol syndrome is the most serious type of FASD. It results in babies who have abnormal facial features (wide-set, narrow eyes), growth problems, and nervous system problems. FASDs last a lifetime; there is no cure. During adolescence—the period between 12 and 17 years of age—the brain continues to develop and mature. Studies suggest that consuming alcohol during this time may have lasting effects on brain development. Young adulthood—the period between 18 and 29—is a time of increased risk for problems with alcohol. The youngest segment of this group, although legally not allowed to drink, is most at risk for alcohol abuse, compared with other age groups. Midlife spans the ages of 30 to 59. This is a period when the results of heavy drinking often become evident—alcoholic liver disease, several types of cancer, and disorders of the heart, circulatory system, brain, and immune system. Senior adults tend to drink less than other age groups. But as people live longer, that may be changing. Seniors' greater use of prescription drugs also may put them at a higher risk for interaction with alcohol.
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Understanding Alcohol Use Across Your Lifespan / Use and Abuse / Research Findings / Tips To Reduce Consumption

Winter 2013 Issue: Volume 7 Number 4 Page 22