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Teens Drinkers Face Higher Alcohol-Related Risks

June 6, 2009

Substantial rates of alcohol-related injuries could be curtailed by postponing the start of alcohol consumption, Reuters reported.

Consultations with a fair accounting of the of U.S. adult population give support for a connection with “starting to drink at an early age and not only unintentionally injuring oneself while under the influence of alcohol, but with injuring other people”, Dr. Ralph W. Hingson said. 

A report in the journal Pediatrics by Hingson and Dr. Wenxing Zha, both from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, in Bethesda, Maryland, indicated that in a collection of 34,600 adults who were questioned, those who started drinking as teenagers, rather than waiting until the 21-year legal age, were more probable to report driving under the influence of alcohol and to have been in self-imposed risky instances after drinking. 

The probability of alcohol-related driving or accidental injuries seems to double in individuals age 16 or younger, as opposed to those 21 years of age or older, the investigators inform. 

In 2001-2002, the study participants were around 45 years of age on average when they were questioned about the age at which they started drinking alcohol.

Participants were asked about their subsequent drinking practices in a second interview between 2004 and 2005, as well as whether or not they had employed hazardous behaviors like driving, swimming, and operating machinery, while under the influence of alcohol since their first interview. 

A scientific analysis of the interviews found a connection between younger age at drinking inception and escalated risk for later alcohol dependence or abuse, driving while under the influence of alcohol, and injuries due to alcohol. 

The danger for accidental injuries to themselves and others among those who started drinking as teenagers did not change when the researchers allowed for other injury risk contributors and sociodemographic characteristics linked with alcohol use. 

“Young people were disproportionately likely to be involved in injuries due to alcohol abuse,” Hingson said.

Only one-third of accidental injuries while under the influence of alcohol were evident among respondents of age 25, Hingson and Zha note.  However, this age group only made up 7 percent of the study group.  

Hingson and Zha believe that more studies to explore ways to postpone or reduce adolescent drinking are needed to reduce potential accidental alcohol-related injuries. 

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