Young adults who drink too much alcohol may have "hidden health consequences" that are difficult to wipe away even decades after conquering their problem drinking, a study revealed.
Chronic drinkers suffered more medical conditions than non-drinkers and were twice as likely to get depression, according to a Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs study published on Tuesday.
Researchers examined 664 US male Vietnam-era veterans and found those who reported symptoms of alcohol dependence in their younger years had poorer physical and mental health by the time they were in their 60s, compared to those who did not have it.
Lead researcher Randy Haber, of the Palo Alto Veterans Affairs Health Care System in California, said those who drank too much at a young age had silent but "permanent" health problems later in life.
"It's clear that people's lives improve when alcohol dependence goes into remission," Dr Haber said.
"But it is not clear whether there are hidden consequences that remain after heavy drinking has ceased."
Dr Haber said evidence has showed that both brain and body are affected by excessive drinking, but researchers don't know how long these effects last.
His study was based on 368 men who did not report any symptoms of alcohol dependence and 221 who had at least three symptoms of dependence.
It also researched 75 people who had symptoms in early adulthood but not after the age of 30.
The study revealed those who were chronic drinks at a young age had three medical conditions in later life whereas those who weren't alcohol dependent had two.
On a depression scale, people who drank at a young age were twice as likely to get depression and the effects were seen among those who had been free of dependence symptoms for several decades.
Dr Haber said other studies have shown that chronic drinking may injure parts of the brain involved in emotional regulation, self-control and decision-making.
He also noted that it is possible years of alcohol exposure in early adulthood could have lasting effects on those brain areas.
"If you have entered (alcohol dependence) recovery, keep going," Haber said.
"Live your life to its fullest."
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