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Teenage brains on alcohol

Friedrichs, Edward S. M. D. (retired)

doi: 10.1097/01.NNN.0000412267.77038.51
Departments: Letters

Brown Deer, WI

THE EDITOR RESPONDS: Thank you, Dean. Our articles states, “Studies show that the earlier a person starts to drink in an unsupervised way (at a keg party with friends, for example, instead of having a glass of wine at dinner with mom and dad), the more likely he or she is to have alcohol abuse problems later in life.” We did not intend to suggest that parents should allow their teenagers to have a glass of wine with dinner, and we appreciate your clarification.

Amy Paturel's article “Buzz Kill” was very interesting and valuable. I hope to send copies of it to my grandson and his friends at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

As a retired internist trained in both sleep and addiction medicine, I felt that mention of sleep impairment was missing from the discussion. Drugs of addiction, including alcohol, have a profound destructive impact on sleep quantity and quality, especially REM-stage sleep. Recovery from alcohol abuse requires an extended period of sleep repair and replacement, and even mild brain damage, such as minimal brain trauma, makes this repair more difficult. Sleep centers in the brain are deep and distributed near the emotional brain sites that you discussed. Much minor brain trauma occurs during “black-outs,” without memory of such injury.

Until we meld sleep physiology into the picture of brain healing and recovery, the treatment road ahead in addiction medicine will continue to be difficult.

Edward S. Friedrichs, M. D. (retired)

Brown Deer, WI

©2012 American Academy of Neurology