The Grim Neurology of Teenage Drinking

A new study (NY Times registration is free. If you don’t want to register, go to www.bugmenot.com.) affirms what we’ve learned over the last 10 to 15 years about the importance of postponing age of first use:

47 percent of those who begin drinking alcohol before the age of 14 become alcohol dependent at some time in their lives, compared with 9 percent of those who wait at least until age 21. The correlation holds even when genetic risks for alcoholism are taken into account.

“We definitely didn’t know 5 or 10 years ago that alcohol affected the teen brain differently,” said Dr. White, who has also been involved in research at Duke on alcohol in adolescent rats. “Now there’s a sense of urgency. It’s the same place we were in when everyone realized what a bad thing it was for pregnant women to drink alcohol.”

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