Having First Drink During Puberty Raises Risk of Alcoholism Later in Life

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Researchers found a link between those who drink alcohol during puberty and alcoholics, warning parents to delay kids' drinking as much as possible.

There are many parents who believe supervised early drinking encourages them to be responsible with alcohol later in life. But now, a study has indicated that those who drink early in life may drink more later in life.

The research team, from the University of Heidelberg in Germany, studied the drinking habits of 283 young adults.

Dr. Miriam Schneider, study author, said that other studies simply focused on the age of a person when they had their first alcoholic drink, and did not focus on the person's individual stage of development.

Schnieder said it depends greatly on what phase of puberty a person was in when they had their first drink in finding their risk factor for becoming an alcoholic. 

Finding that phase "may represent a stronger and better indicator for subsequent alcohol-related problems than simply age," she said.

The research team determined what stage of puberty the participants were in when they had their first drink, and then recorded their drinking behavior at 19, 22, and 23. 

They also supplemented the human research with research on rats.

"Both studies revealed that those individuals that initiated alcohol consumption during puberty tended to drink more and also more frequently than those starting after puberty," Schnieder said. 

"It is during puberty that substances like drugs of abuse - alcohol, cannabis, etc. - may induce the most destructive and also persistent effects on the still-developing brain, which may in some cases even result in disorders such as schizophrenia or addiction."

"Prevention work therefore needs to increase awareness of specific risks and vulnerability related to puberty."

This study further validates the claims senior psychologist Dr. Aric Sigman made earlier this month about adults realizing that alcohol is damaging to the young brain.

Sigman urged parents to delay the age at which they introduce their children to alcohol. He said it is wrong to believe that giving children small amounts of alcohol at home is teaching them to drink responsibly. Sigman said it does the opposite, as it primes the brain to enjoy it more. 

Eric Appleby, of charity Alcohol Concern, said, "It may feel that introducing children to alcohol in a safe and controlled environment at home is the right thing to do, but all the research indicates that the younger someone starts drinking, the more likely they are to have problems with alcohol in later life."

"The Chief Medical Officer advises that an alcohol-free childhood is the safest option."

Sources: Daily Mail, Zee News