A recent study conducted by the National Institute of Health (NIH) looked into the association between teenage drinking and alcoholism. The study took into account such factors as history of alcoholism in the family, smoking, childhood antisocial behavior, and drug use. All of these factors are believed to increase the risk of alcohol use and dependence.
The results of the study showed that those who began drinking at an early age were more likely to develop a long term dependence on alcohol, which has deleterious effects on one’s health. The study reported that 47% of those who started drinking before the age of 14 developed dependence on alcohol compared only to 9% who started drinking at 21 or older. People who started drinking at an early age were also prone to be an alcoholic 10 years after they started drinking. They also are at a greater risk of alcoholism anytime during adulthood.
Aside from the NIH study there is also increasing evidence that significant structural and functional brain development occurs during adolescent years. Strong synaptic connections are being strengthened and weak connections are being eliminated. Much of this process is caused by the adolescent’s exposure to the outside world. Negative outside influences such as the pressure to drink and do drugs may be detrimental to the brain’s development process. There is also a growing amount of information which proves that alcohol affects adolescent brain differently than an adult brain. An adolescent brain might be more susceptible to damage from repeated alcohol exposure compared to an adult brain.
Unfortunately, drinking is often the result of an adolescent’s natural tendency to take risks. Adolescents are often prone to pushing boundaries, exploring and taking risks. Some have found a way to take healthy form of risks such as skateboarding, rollerblading and going into extreme sports. Others unfortunately, find their way into alcohol and drugs. Because of this, some parents prevent their adolescents to take risks. This could be detrimental because risk taking is naturally a part of one’s development process. It is important that young people be provided healthy ways of taking risks.
The information presented here should be enough to persuade parents and adults in general to convince adolescents not to drink. Such a wise move will prevent the onset of alcoholism, which has been strongly associated with early drinking. In fact, the studies show that those who began drinking early are not necessarily predisposed to alcoholism. Rather, the drinking may itself create the predisposition to alcohol dependence.