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Issued as Alcohol Alert #74, January 2008. Published by U.S. Department of Health& Human Services, National Institutes of Health National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.


The Embryo and Fetus: Focus on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)
Midlife Focus on Detrimental Effects of Drinking and on Treatment Options
Senior Adults and Alcohol: A National Health Issue

Alcohol use and the risk for alcohol-related problems change over the lifespan. College students and young adults, who often drink large quantities of alcohol at one time, are more likely to experience problems such as alcohol poisoning, drunk-driving crashes, and assaults; whereas, older individuals who drink even moderately while taking certain medications run the risk of harmful drug interactions. Additionally, patterns of alcohol use may differ across the human lifespan—for example, adolescents who begin drinking prior to age 14 are more likely to develop a serious problem with alcohol later in life. Understanding how alcohol influences people across different life stages is important, especially when designing effective approaches for diagnosing, treating, and preventing alcohol abuse and dependence and their related problems.

In 2006, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) published the Five-Year Strategic Plan, The NIAAA Strategic Plan for Research. The Five-Year Plan introduces a new organizing principle for alcohol research studies: A Lifespan Perspective. This new perspective gives researchers a framework within which to examine how alcohol affects people at different stages of development and how different stages of development affect drinking behaviors. The Five-Year Plan examines the current state of alcohol research—what we know about alcohol-related issues— within a Lifespan Perspective, and suggests opportunities for new research and outreach based on these findings. Since 2006, the Five-Year Plan has been revised once, and NIAAA will continue to provide updates to reflect new and emerging research opportunities. This Alcohol Alert presents some of the findings and opportunities outlined in the latest version of the Five-Year Plan.

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