TEENAGERS indulging in drinking binges could be hurting their own brain development and building a likelihood for alcoholism, according to a Queensland researcher.
Mix that alcohol with high-caffeine drinks including Red Bull, and the risks increased.
Findings from Queensland University of Technology's Institute for Health and Biomedical Innovation showed heavy boozing during adolescence had a direct effect on a part of the brain that could be irreversibly damaged.
Professor Selena Bartlett's said because the brain was not fully developed until 25, this drinking prevented it from reaching maturity.
"During adolescence, the brain undergoes massive changes in the prefrontal cortex and areas linked to drug reward, but alcohol disrupts this," Prof Bartlett said.
"The research, which was carried out on rats, suggests that during aging, the brain's delta opioid peptide receptor activity turns down, but binge drinking causes the receptors to stay on, keeping it in an adolescent stage.
"The younger a child or teenager starts binge drinking and the more they drink, the worse the possible outcome for them."
Prof Bartlett said recent trends to mix high-caffeine drinks such as Red Bull with alcohol were making the binge drinking problem worse.
"Historically, a young person who had had too much to drink might be sick, pass out or fallen to sleep.
"Now the high-caffeine drinks keep them awake longer enabling them to drink even more," she said.
Prof Bartlett said the study was released "not to be wowsers" but because binge drinking hurt the brain's development and increased the risk of alcoholism.
"It's about providing information so people can make informed choices about the quantity and strength of the alcohol they consume," she said.