Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Adolescents who partake in drugs and alcohol at a young age are likely to develop more and more severe problems as they get older. Using substances at a young age while children's minds are still developing can change one's chemical make-up which will increase the chances of a long road of addiction to come. A new study of the Rutgers Alcohol Problem Index (RAPI) has confirmed that not only is it an effective screening assessment, but that it may also - when administered in late adolescence - be predictive of alcohol diagnoses seven years later. Results will be published in the May 2011 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research and are currently available at Early View.
The Rutgers Alcohol Problem Index (RAPI) is widely used to assess adolescent drinking-related problems. However, the predictive power of RAPI scores has never been looked at on a longitudinal level. "RAPI is a self-report questionnaire on the frequency with which an adolescent has experienced 23 consequences of drinking alcohol, such as getting into a fight with a friend or family member, in the preceding 18 months," explained Richard J. Rose, Professor Emeritus in psychology and brain science at Indiana University, Bloomington. "This is the first study in which adolescent RAPI scores were used to predict later diagnoses of alcoholism. And it is the first study of pairs of twin brothers and sisters who differ in their RAPI scores to ask whether these co-twins later differ, as expected, in alcohol outcomes. They do."
"It might seem silly to even question the existence of a direct pathway from problem drinking to alcohol dependence in that alcohol dependence is clearly the culmination of an escalating pattern of heavy and problem drinking," noted Matt McGue, a professor in the department of psychology at the University of Minnesota. "The issue here though is whether drinking in adolescence carries particular weight in the development of alcohol dependence in adulthood. That is, adolescents, because of social factors or because their brains are still developing, may be especially susceptible to the effects of heavy drinking."
The researchers studied 597 Finnish twins (300 male, 297 female) at age 18 with RAPI. They then interviewed the same group at age 25 with the "Semi-Structured Assessment of the Genetics of Alcoholism" in order to determine alcohol abuse and dependence diagnoses.
"The key finding was that the more drinking-related problems experienced by an adolescent at age 18, the greater the likelihood that adolescent would be diagnosed with alcoholism seven years later, at age 25," said Rose. "That predictive association was stronger in females than males, and was confirmed in within-family comparisons of co-twins who differed in their age 18 RAPI scores. The analysis of co-twins ruled out factors such as parental drinking and household atmosphere as the source of the association, because twins jointly experience these."
"Certainly RAPI is predictive of later risk of alcohol dependence," said McGue. "This means that RAPI can be used to identify a group of late-adolescents who are at high risk for developing alcohol dependence."
Medical News Today