Health: Drinking Early Creates Alcohol Dependence

Washington, Sep 19 (IANS) A new study led by an Indian American has found that people who begin drinking early are more likely to develop alcohol dependence (AD).

The study says age at first drink (AFD) may activate genetic factors that are already linked with vulnerability to AD symptoms. Inheritable influences on AD symptoms were considerably greater in those who reported an AFD younger than 15 years.

"Drinking at an early age may create an environment where individuals can more easily transition from normative to problematic drinking," said Arpana Agrawal, assistant psychiatry professor, Washington University School of Medicine (WUSM) and study co-author.

"This would mean that, for someone who is vulnerable, an experience or exposure leads to the expression of their pre-existing risk to develop alcohol dependence," added Carol A. Prescott, professor of psychology, University of Southern California.

Agrawal is a product of Bangalore University, where she did her B.Sc in microbiology-chemistry and zoology in 1997-2000.

Agrawal and her colleagues examined previously collected data on 6,257 adult, identical and fraternal, male and female Australian twins.

"Compared with those who consumed their first alcohol drink after age 13 to 15 years, early-onset drinkers appeared to be more genetically susceptible to later alcohol dependence problems," Agrawal said in a WUSM release.

"At least 12 studies from several different countries have found that individuals whose (genetic or environmental) predispositions lead them to try alcohol at an earlier age have greater risk to develop alcohol-related problems," said Prescott.

The results are slated for publication in the December issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.


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