Although we have heard multiple experts suggest that drinking in one’s adolescent years can lead to increased alcohol consumption in adulthood now a new study shows that youth that first drink during puberty are at greater risk of developing alcohol problems later in life.
According to alcohol research, the earlier adolescents began drinking, the more serious the alcohol associated problems they suffered with later on in life.
This is what authors of the new study reported according to an article on Psychcentral.com
“Most teenagers have their first alcoholic drink during puberty. However, most research on the risks of early-onset alcohol use up to now has not focused on the pubertal stage during which the first alcoholic drink is consumed,” said Miriam Schneider, Ph.D., a researcher at the Central Institute of Mental Health, University of Heidelberg, and one of the authors of the new study.
She noted that a common notion in alcohol research is that the earlier adolescents began to drink, the bigger problems they faced later in life.
“However, a closer look at the statistics revealed a peak risk of alcohol use disorders for those beginning at 12 to 14 years of age, while even earlier beginners seemed to have a slightly lower risk,” she said.
On average, girls begin puberty between the ages of 10 and 11, while boys typically start between the ages 11 of 12. Puberty lasts approximately 5 to 6 years for most teens.
As part of the study, Schneider investigated the age at which 283 young adults began drinking. Then she monitored their drinking behaviour, such as number of days they drank alcohol, amount of alcohol they consumed and any dangerous drinking habits. The participants were between the ages of 19 and 23 and had to answer a serious of questionnaires and be involved in a number of interviews.
Researchers also conducted a rodent study at the same time in order to examine the effects of mid-puberty or adult alcohol exposure on voluntary alcohol consumption in later life by 20 male Wistar rats. According to Schneider, 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, indicating that puberty is a “high-risk” window for having a first drink. This is why it is so important that parents are aware of this study and the fact that introducing teenagers to alcohol from a young age can be extremely damaging to their futures. Why? Because puberty is a stage where the brain is vulnerable for any kind of reward and alcohol and drugs are perceived as rewards. This reward seeking leads to increased alcohol and drug consumption and develops a problem which they carry into adulthood.
… “It is exactly 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 neuropsychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia or addictive disorders.
“Prevention work therefore needs to increase awareness of specific risks and vulnerability related to puberty.”