Dr. Avnish Jolly, 7th October, 2008 :Experts stressed in their recommendations that drinking alcohol should be delayed as long as possible, until at least age 18 or older and while it seem a ‘unsettled’ point, when someone takes their first drink of alcohol is relative to the development of alcohol problems. According to recommendations, Researchers at the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) have found that drinking alcohol before 15 years of age is risky and increases a child’s risk of becoming a heavy drinker later on.
Researcher Deborah A. Dawson said by looking at adult-onset dependence, they were able to see for the first time that the association between early drinking and the increased risk of alcohol problems in adulthood.
Most of children have their first taste of alcohol at home, given by parents in the hope of encouraging responsible drinking later on and research shows that by the age of 7 most children will have tasted alcohol. However experts believe a teenager’s fast-developing brain becomes programmed to link alcohol with pleasure and say the likelihood of developing alcohol-use disorders in adulthood is about 50% higher for people who start drinking before the age of 15 than for those who abstain until they are 18 or older. According to government poll of 11 to 15-year-olds in England in 2007 by the National Health Service found around 640,000 were likely to have drunk alcohol in the past seven days and in 2006/7 one in 10 hospital admissions, specifically due to an alcohol-related diagnosis, were in under 18 year olds.
The NIAAA study also matched information on the teenage drinking habits of more than 22,000 Americans with the development of alcohol-related problems. Other research has suggested that the age of a first drink is associated with the later development of alcohol-use disorders, but this latest research has found that drinking before the age of 15, is especially risky. The researchers at the NIAAA say some early drinkers become alcohol dependent while still in their teens, a time when those who have not yet started drinking are not even at risk of becoming dependent.
The researchers also analysed data from a three-year longitudinal study of U.S. drinkers 18 years of age and older, examining the link between three groups of first drinkers – younger than 15, between 15 and 17, and 18 years of age or older – and comparing them with the first incidence of alcohol dependence, abuse, and specific alcohol disorders. Factors such as duration of exposure, family history and a wide range of baseline and childhood risk factors were accounted for and it was found that people who started drinking before age 15, and to a lesser extent those who started drinking at ages 15 to 17, were more likely to become alcohol dependent as adults than people who waited until 18 or older to start drinking.
The researchers submitted that their findings provide the scientific basis of those prevention programs that focus on decreasing underage drinking, as well as supporting those public-health policies that are geared towards the prevention of underage drinking.
The Complete research will be published in the December – 2008 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research (http://www.alcoholism-cer.com)
For more information visit: http://www.niaaa.nih.gov