Impulsiveness, aggression, alcohol and adolescents

  • Adolescents with alcohol problems often manifest impulsive, aggressive, and antisocial behaviors.
  • One type of adult alcoholism (Type II) is likewise characterized by antisocial behavior, and may be linked to a decrease in function of the neurotransmitter serotonin.
  • Yet a recent study has found that adolescents with both alcohol and antisocial problems show an increase in serotonin function.
  • Serotonin dysregulation, rather than high or low levels, may be key to high-risk behaviors.
Alcohol use disorders are nearly as common among older adolescents as among adults. Adolescents who abuse alcohol or are dependent on alcohol often manifest impulsive, aggressive, and antisocial behaviors. A study in the November issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research examines the possibility that variations in brain chemistry can 'set the stage' for risk-taking behaviors. More specifically, it studies the role that dysregulation of central serotonergic function may play in impulsiveness, aggression, and conduct disorders in older adolescents (between 16 and 21 years of age) with alcohol problems.

"Impulsive and aggressive personality traits, as well as impulsive-aggressive behavior," explained Paul H. Soloff, professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and lead author of the study," are temperamental traits that lead to socially disinhibited behavior, also called 'behavior undercontrol.' Kids with behavior undercontrol are more likely to develop alcohol use disorders than non-impulsive-aggressive kids."

One type of adult alcoholism, referred to as Type II, is defined by antisocial behavior, including many expressions of behavior undercontrol, as well as early onset (before age 25), and male predominance. (This is in contrast to Type I alcoholism, which is found in both males and females, occurs later in life, and is not associated with antisocial traits.) Research sugg

Contact: Paul H. Soloff, M.D.
Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research

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