Don't Touch Drink under the Age of 21; Expert's Stark Warning That Teenagers Who Binge Drink Have High Risk of Alcohol Addiction in Later Life Dependency Danger of Teenage Alcohol Abuse

Daily Mail (London), October 7, 2015 | Go to article overview

Don't Touch Drink under the Age of 21; Expert's Stark Warning That Teenagers Who Binge Drink Have High Risk of Alcohol Addiction in Later Life Dependency Danger of Teenage Alcohol Abuse


Byline: Tom Witherow

YOUNG people should drink no alcohol until they turn 21 or risk becoming dependent on it later in life, according to new research.

Drinking before that age, while the brain is still developing, leaves a long-lasting imprint that makes heavy social drinking or alcoholism more likely throughout life.

Official NHS guidelines say teenagers between the ages of 15 and 17 can have a drink once a week, and should stay within the recommended alcohol limits for adults thereafter.

But the findings suggest the Chief Medical Officer's guidance may have to be reviewed, especially for those aged 18 to 21.

Dr George Koob, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), who led the research, said: 'This would be one thing they might want to be considering.' When young people drink alcohol their brain learns to crave the pleasure released, a conference of the International Society of Addiction Medicine, held in Dundee, Turn to Page 4 Continued from Page One was told. But people can be in their mid-twenties before the pleasure-sensitive front of the brain is fully developed, Dr Koob said.

Heavy drinking in late teenage years can make an individual twice as likely to be dependant on alcohol later in life, while the risk rises to fourfold for those who abuse alcohol in their early teens.

Dr Koob said ideally alcohol should be avoided entirely until the age of 21, and people should perhaps even wait until the brain is fully developed at 25.

Those aged 18 to 21 are especially at risk, raising fears that the university drinking culture could create a generation of people dependant on drink.

Alcohol charity Drinkaware said in a recent report: 'Many [young people] say they feel like they have to be drunk to have a good time. …

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