Steady, folks, you may turn teens to drink
The research found that children introduced to drink under the age of 15, even in supervised conditions, were more likely to become alcoholics
For parents it is one of the great dilemmas of child-rearing. How should you teach your children to deal with alcohol? Should you ban it altogether - and risk making it seem more attractive - or let your youngsters try a little wine at family meals in the hope that they will learn to drink responsibly?
A new study from America’s respected National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) suggests the liberals may have got it badly wrong.
It found that if young people have their first taste of alcohol before the age of 15 it sharply raises their risk of becoming alcohol dependent in later life.
“We can see for the first time the association between an early ‘age of first drink’ and an increased risk of alcohol use disorders that persists into adulthood,” said Deborah Dawson, a research scientist at the NIAAA.
The findings come amid rising concern over teenage drinking habits in Britain, where 54% of teenagers admit to binge-drinking within the previous month.
America has tougher restrictions - all states ban alcohol sales to under21s - but teen drinking still flourishes. A study found that under21s drank 20% of all alcohol consumed in the United States and that one-third of high school pupils were binge-drinking once a month or more.
Until now it had been argued that early drinking and subsequent alcohol dependency reflected underlying factors such as social deprivation, poor education or childhood abuse.
Although such factors may play an important role for some people, the NIAAA study shows that early exposure to alcohol is a risk in itself. It means that giving youngsters small amounts of alcohol in the hope of teaching them restraint may have the opposite effect.
One theory is that teenagers’ brains are changing so fast that exposure to intoxicants can affect long-term development, creating a link between alcohol consumption and pleasure.
The NIAAA’s study seems to confirm this. The researchers looked at data gathered over three years from more than 22,000 young Americans. These were divided into three groups: those who first drank under the age of 15, between 15 and 17, and 18 or over.
The researchers then looked at the drinking patterns that evolved in each of the three groups and at the first incidence of alcohol abuse or dependence.
Howard Moss, associate director for clinical and translational research at the NIAAA, said the study showed that it was important to delay the onset of drinking behaviour as late as possible.
“Early alcohol consumption itself, as a misguided choice, is driving the relationship between early drinking and risk for development of later alcohol problems,” he said.
The findings will undermine the belief, widespread in France and southern Europe, that children should be given watered wine at meals to learn how to drink responsibly.
Frederick Rousseau, a music producer who lives in Paris with his two daughters, aged 18 and 15, said such attitudes were increasingly seen as irrelevant because France was experiencing a surge in teenage drinking similar to that in Britain.
“My own younger daughter got drunk at a recent party even though she is so young,” he said. “Teenagers here prefer hard drink like vodka now and they drink like mad.”
Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, who leads a research group at the University College London Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, said: “The young brain is very malleable and changes fast in response to new influences, although a lot might depend on the amounts drunk as well as the exposure itself.”
ALCOHOL’S GRIP ON THE YOUNG
- A quarter of deaths of men aged 16-24 are attributed to alcohol. For women the figure is 15%
- According to the National Addiction Centre, children have their first alcoholic drink at age 12.4 on average
- A survey published by the NHS earlier this year reported more than one in five 11 to 15-year-olds had alcohol in the week before
- Among 11 to 15-year-olds who admitted drinking alcohol, the average weekly consumption was equivalent to six pints of beer
- Of school-age criminals, 16% have been drinking before they commit their crime
- The number of drunk teenagers admitted to hospital in England increased in the past 10 A Europe-wide alcohol survey found that 54% of British teenagers admitted binge drinking - consuming more than five drinks in a night - within the previous month. This was the highest level in Europe, alongside those of Denmark and Ireland.
Article taken from Times Online
Comments attached top article:
So they took a study of underage drinkers but didn't differentiate between those drinking at home or out on the streets. Underage binge drinkers are likely to turn into adult binge drinkers, but responsible drinkers will stay responsible. Stop using inappropriate studies to fuel the nanny state
Rob, Montrose, UK
short answer ban alcohol advertising if it's expedient to ban cigarette advertising why not alcohol which is a massive killer and cause of social breakdown?
peter c, Devizes, Wessex
There is a general misunderstanding of how readily the brain can become adddicted to a number of chemical compounds in a structural way. Nicotine,alcohol,caffeine,adrenaline can all "fix" chemical pathways very quickly."Unfixing" them is difficult and time-consuming and anxiety of absence is felt.
Dr S.Prokop, Sutton, Surrey,
Perhaps our general of perception of alcohol is to blame. We determine that it's socially acceptable for adults to drink therefore to drink confers maturity on the young person who then indulges. Strained logic it may be but as a society we do condone alcohol consumption,in my opinion, unreasonably.
Rikki Tikki-Tavi, Lichfield, England