Impact of Alcohol Use on Inhibitory Control (and Vice Versa) During Adolescence and Young Adulthood: A Review

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Alcohol and Alcoholism Advance Access published November 15, 2013

Alcohol and Alcoholism pp. 1–9, 2013 doi: 10.1093/alcalc/agt168


Impact of Alcohol Use on Inhibitory Control (and Vice Versa) During Adolescence and Young Adulthood: A Review

E. López-Caneda*, S. Rodríguez Holguín, F. Cadaveira, M. Corral and S. Doallo

Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychobiology, University of Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain

*Corresponding author: Departamento de Psicoloxía Clínica e Psicobioloxía, Facultade de Psicoloxía, Campus Universitario Sur, E-15782 Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain. Tel.:+34-8818-13915; Fax: +34-981528071; E-mail: 

t Abstract — Aims: Adolescence is usually the time when individuals first drink alcohol and this has been associated with relatively weak or immature inhibitory control. This review examines the changes on brain development and inhibitory function that take place during adolescence and youth as well as the relationship between inhibitory control and alcohol use at this early age. Methods: Narrative review of the chief studies related to (a) the development of inhibitory control during adolescence, (b) the deficits in the inhibi- tory ability in alcohol use disorders and (c) the effects of acute alcohol intake and binge drinking on inhibitory control in adolescents and young adults. Results: Inhibitory control processes are developing during adolescence and youth. Poor inhibitory functions may predispose the individual to alcohol misuse. Likewise, acute and binge alcohol drinking may impair the inhibitory control and com- promise the ability to prevent or stop behaviour related to alcohol use. Conclusion: Poor inhibitory control can be both the cause and the consequence of excessive alcohol use. Adolescence and young adulthood may be a particularly vulnerable period due to (a) the weak or immature inhibitory functioning typical of this stage may contribute to the inability of the individual to control alcohol use and (b) alcohol consumption per se may alter or interrupt the proper development of inhibitory control leading to a reduced ability to regu- late alcohol intake. Further longitudinal research is needed to evaluate the interaction between inhibitory control dysfunction and alcohol use in both situations.





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