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Home Industry News Alcohol abuse ‘starts in womb’

Alcohol abuse ‘starts in womb’

13th December 2007

Children whose mothers drank alcohol while they were in the womb are more likely to abuse alcohol when they are older, new research suggests.

Scientists behind today’s studies say the increased risk of alcohol abuse is due to senses in women developing to prefer the taste and smell of alcohol.

The team from the State University of New York told the journal Behavioural Neuroscience today that the research contributes to questions about why teenagers with a family history of drinking may themselves drink more.

One study found that infantile rats exposed to alcohol (ethanol) in the womb drank significantly more of the drink in youth but not in adulthood.

A separate study found the same association with smell; infantile rats whose mothers were exposed to ethanol odour sniffed it significantly more than control rats.

Commenting on their findings, the researchers say that when the developing nervous system senses ethanol in amniotic fluid, it adapts without awareness of which chemicals will help or hurt the organism.

“From a clinical perspective, an enhanced preference for ethanol odour may be an important contributor to the risk for an enhanced postnatal avidity for the drug,” they conclude.

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