Letting your teens drink at home will make the more responsible with alcohol, right? Not so, according to a new German study.
Researchers at the University of Heidelberg found that the earlier a person begins drinking, the more likely they are to become an alcoholic as an adult. The study will be published in the October 2013 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, but is currently available for viewing online.
The scientists at the University of Heidelberg followed 283 adults who had their first drink between the ages of 12 to 14 and assessed their drinking habits at ages 19, 22 and 23 through interviews and questionnaires. Their behaviors were compared against those of others in a larger epidemiological study.
Puberty was chosen by the researchers to measure because it is the time of major physical and emotion changes in a child.
"Puberty is a phase in which the brain reward system undergoes major functional changes," Rainer Spanagel, one of the study's leading authors, said in a statement. "Therefore, during puberty the brain is in a highly vulnerable state for any kind of reward, and drug rewards in particular."
According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), alcohol is the most commonly used drug by teens. Their research suggests that people who begin drinking before the age of 15 are five times more likely to become alcoholics than those who have their first drink at the age of 21.