Neurocognitive functioning of adolescents: effects of protracted alcohol use

Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2000 Feb;24(2):164-71.


Background: The present study examined associations between alcohol involvement in early to middle adolescence and neuropsychological (NP) functioning.

Methods: Alcohol-dependent adolescents (n = 33) with over 100 lifetime alcohol episodes and without dependence on other substances were recruited from alcohol/drug abuse treatment facilities. Comparison (n = 24) adolescents had no histories of alcohol or drug problems and were matched to alcohol-dependent participants on age (15 to 16 years), gender, socioeconomic status, education, and family history of alcohol dependence. NP tests and psychosocial measures were administered to alcohol-dependent participants following 3 weeks of detoxification.

Results: Alcohol-dependent and comparison adolescents demonstrated significant differences on several NP scores. Protracted alcohol use was associated with poorer performance on verbal and nonverbal retention in the context of intact learning and recognition discriminability. Recent alcohol withdrawal among adolescents was associated with poor visuospatial functioning, whereas lifetime alcohol withdrawal was associated with poorer retrieval of verbal and nonverbal information.

Conclusions: Deficits in retrieval of verbal and nonverbal information and in visuospatial functioning were evident in youths with histories of heavy drinking during early and middle adolescence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Alcoholism / physiopathology
  • Alcoholism / psychology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / adverse effects*
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Ethanol / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory / drug effects*
  • Neuropsychological Tests / statistics & numerical data
  • Space Perception / drug effects
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / psychology*


  • Central Nervous System Depressants
  • Ethanol