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Teen drinkers much more likely to struggle with alcohol abuse later in life

A study has found those who hit the bottle underage are much more likely to abuse alcohol later in life.

The long-term study of 9,000 teens found those who drank weekly before the age of 17 were two to three times more likely to binge drink, drink drive and be dependent on alcohol in adulthood.

The results led researchers to conclude that if all alcohol use before 17 was eliminated, substance abuse in adulthood could be cut by up to 30%.

But would increasing the legal drinking age help?

Dr Edmund Silins from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre tells Deborah Knight a range of responses are needed.

“Increasing the minimum drinking age has worked in some countries, but we need to remember that young people are already having their first drink well below Australia’s current minimum drinking age.

“We need to have a range of responses… that would include restrictions on alcohol marketing and advertising, and also restrictions on cheap drinks which are specifically targetted at teenagers.”

When it comes to the research itself, Dr Silins says they were taken aback by the results.

“We found that how often you drink in adolescence predicts drinking problems in adulthood just as much as, and possibly more than, the amount you drink.”

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Deborah Knight