For many young people, binge drinking is the most common form of alcohol misuse, particularly in those with a depressive disorder. Nonetheless, relatively little is known about the effects that the combination of depression and binge drinking has on neuropsychological outcomes. This study aimed to determine whether binge drinkers with depression show more pronounced neuropsychological dysfunction compared to their peers with depression alone or binge drinking alone. Neuropsychological testing was conducted on help-seeking young people (18–30 years) recently diagnosed with a depressive disorder and classified as either ‘binge drinkers’ (n=43) or ‘non-bingers’ (n=48). Two healthy control groups (i.e. binge drinkers, n=24 and non-bingers, n=21) were additionally recruited and also underwent the same testing. Qualitatively, binge-drinking patients with depression performed consistently below controls, depression alone, or binge drinking alone. In keeping with our hypotheses, visual learning and memory was significantly reduced in depressed binge drinkers, whereas mental flexibility was reduced at a trend level. There were no significant differences in neuropsychological performance in depressed alone or binge drinking alone individuals compared to controls. The findings suggest that when treating young people with a depressive disorder, strategies targeting binge drinking may contribute to preventing potential neurobiological changes underlying poorer long-term clinical outcomes.
- Binge drinking