It is unfortunate that in the United States, where drinking under 21 years is illegal, people between 12 and 20 years consume 11 percent of alcohol consumed in the country, with binge drinkers consuming 90 percent of it.
According to the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 33 percent high school students drank some amount of alcohol during the past 30 days and 18 percent of those were binge drinkers. A 2015 national survey, Monitoring the Future Survey, reported an occurrence of drinking of 10 percent and 35 percent among eighth and 10th graders respectively, over the past 30 days, with 5 percent and 17 percent of eighth and 10th graders reportedly being binge drinkers.
Underage drinking is known to cause serious problems, including poor or failing grades, social problems like fighting, physical problems like hangovers and illnesses, risky sexual behavior, alcohol-related car accident, memory and increased risk of suicide and homicide. Studies suggest how age of first drinking is related to the occurrence of mental health and alcohol and drug disorders in adulthood.
Alcohol use disorder later is another problem
About 60 percent teens have had at least one drink by the age of 18, implying adolescence as the first drinking age for over 50 percent population in the U.S.
Many studies establish an association between the age at first drink and occurrence of alcohol abuse or dependence in the later life. A 2016 research report, “Relation between age of first drinking and mental health and alcohol and drug disorders in adulthood: evidence from a 35-year cohort study,” tried to understand the associations between age of first drinking and later alcohol/drug disorders.
The study referred to earlier studies that suggested a significant association between the age of first drinking and increased risk of later nicotine dependence, illicit drug dependence, and alcohol use disorder.
It suggested a marginal association with cannabis dependence, but not with depression or anxiety disorder. However, the researches were not able to find a clear evidence of the association and hinted a meagre association with factors related to individual characteristics and family during childhood influencing the behavior during adulthood.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), correlates underage drinking with alcohol abuse during adulthood. According to CDC, people who consume alcohol before the age of 15 have six times more risk of developing alcohol dependence or abuse later in life compared to the people who begin drinking at or after 21 years of age.
The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) links drinking before the age of 15 with various risks, including substance abuse, involvement in risky sexual behavior, and violent behavior after drinking, both during adolescence and in adulthood.
The bottom line
While researchers are divided on the interrelationship between the age of first drinking and the risk of developing mental health problems and substance abuse, there are enough evidence to support other hazards of drinking, especially among teen drinkers.
Various studies have emphasized on the role of parents’ active involvement in their children’s lives to control the prevalence of alcohol in youth. It has been found that children with parents who binge drink are more likely to binge drink compared to children whose parents do not. Therefore, prevention programs on alcohol use disorder need to be designed and directed toward delaying the onset of drinking behavior to prevent the associated behavior problems.
The California Dual Diagnosis Helpline aims to help people battling substance abuse and mental disorder at the same time. We can help you with information on dual diagnosis treatment centers in California. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-980-1736 or chat online for further information.