Early Drinking Habits for Teens Risk Addiction Later

In Spain, youth meet for the “botellón,” or social drinking in the streets; in the UK parents are letting their teens have a “tipple” before they are the legal drinking age.

Two recent studies in Europe have found that those children who have their first alcohol at an early age will drink more heavily as adults than other adults who did not drink at early ages. The studies stress that drinking at a young age poses a greater risk later for alcohol abuse and addiction.

Of those individuals who consume alcohol, a person who is older doesn’t necessarily consume more than a youth. While privileges and wisdom seem to grow with age, this is one lifelong activity that researchers from the University of Valencia found may start at a young age.

In their study, funded by the Spanish National Drugs Plan, they analyzed the alcohol consumption of 6,009 youth ages 14 to 25 over a two year period beginning in 2007. The research team found that overall students of university age drink more than adolescents. But two study results disturbed researchers.

First, adolescents were already drinking as much as university students while practicing botellón. Secondly, those adolescents who were already drinking as much as the university students will be drinking even more when they are university students.

Lead researcher, Begoña Espejo Tort, is concerned that as the amount of drinking increases for these adolescents over the years, they will slowly be falling into addiction that will interfere with their future employment, personal relationships, and financial situations.

A similar and previous study from Yale University confirmed the same results in the United Kingdom. For four years, lead author, Meghan Morean, and her research team followed 1,160 high school students as they progressed through their university years. Once again, their findings showed that the earlier an adolescent starts drinking alcohol, the more they will be drinking during their university adult life. The later an individual is introduced to alcohol the safer they are from the risk of adult alcohol addiction.

Researchers found that youth were not completely unaware of the harm of drinking alcohol, but adolescents only seemed to see immediate problems and could not comprehend the greater life-long risk of addiction and other health problems due to excessive alcohol.

Adolescents were mainly aware of the dangers of alcohol they had seen in advertisements:

Experts suggest multiple ways to help educate youth and their guardians on early alcohol consumption:

Education and awareness programs should not stop when students enter college. Adults of legal drinking age should be guided in knowing “How much is too much?” when they want to be able to safely enjoy a few drinks with friends.