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Alcoholism Risk Higher with Drinking Before Age 14

Younger age associated with nearly twice the risk of alcoholism as those who start drinking at age 21 or later

WEDNESDAY, July 5 (HealthDay News) -- People who drink alcohol before the age of 14 are more likely to be alcohol-dependent later in life than those who start drinking as young adults, according to a study in the July issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Ralph W. Hingson, Sc.D., M.P.H., of Boston University School of Public Health, and colleagues surveyed 43,093 adults to discover whether early alcohol use leads to earlier alcohol dependence and chronic alcoholism.

The researchers found that adults who started drinking before age 14 were 1.78 times more likely to become alcohol-dependent during their lives than those who started drinking at 21 or later, and 1.69 times more likely to become alcohol-dependent within a decade.

Earlier drinkers were 1.93 times more likely to be alcohol-dependent during the past year than later drinkers, and 3.09 times more likely to experience many alcohol-dependent bouts, the researchers report. Alcoholics who started drinking earlier were also 2.62 times more likely to go through at least one year-long or longer drinking bout.

"There is a need to screen and counsel adolescents about alcohol use and to implement policies and programs that delay alcohol consumption," the authors conclude.

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