Alcohol addiction often begins at puberty

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ZI study: alcohol consumption during puberty increases the risk of alcohol addiction

Alcohol consumption during puberty has an impact on later drinking behavior and increases the risk of developing alcohol addiction. This is the result of a study by the Mannheim Central Institute for Mental Health (ZI), which was published by the Federal Center for Health Education (BZgA). Young people who drink alcohol for the first time between the ages of 12 and 14 are particularly at risk. Until now, scientists had assumed that adolescents had a risky drinking behavior in adulthood the earlier they started consuming alcohol. They are more likely to develop alcohol addiction than others. The addiction syndrome is colloquially referred to as addiction. Here the reward system in the brain plays an essential role in the development of addiction.

A study by the Mannheim Central Institute for Mental Health (ZI), which has now been published by the Federal Center for Health Education (BZgA), has shown that not only the age of the first alcohol consumption is an indicator for a later alcohol addiction. Rather, the current level of maturation of the brain plays a crucial role. Because during puberty massive restructuring and maturation processes take place in the brain, which are involved in the development of motivation, the processing of feelings and also in the development of addiction. In addition to the maturation processes during pregnancy and shortly after birth, puberty is the second most important phase for the development of our brain, explains Miriam Schneider, co-author of the study.

The phases of puberty in girls and boys are biologically different. While puberty occurs in girls aged 10 to 14, boys between 12 and 17 are in this phase of their lives. It is believed that alcohol interferes with the ongoing processes and, as a result, adolescent alcohol users drink more and more in adulthood.

"In puberty, the foundation for later drinking behavior is often laid," says Schneider. In the study, the scientists evaluated the data of 283 adolescents who were examined at the age of three months and then regularly up to the age of 23. The focus was on the development of the children and the social conditions under which they grew up. In the past, the opinion was also held that the social environment is significantly involved in the development of alcohol addiction.

It was found that the later adolescents started consuming alcohol, the lower the risk of alcohol addiction. For the BZgA director Elisabeth Pott, these results are evidence that addiction prevention campaigns have to delay the age at which alcohol consumption starts, and she refers to earlier studies that showed a decrease in alcohol consumption among adolescents between the ages of 12 and 15. Between 2004 and 2011, the average age at which young people in Germany came into contact with alcohol for the first time shifted by five months. According to the study, young people in Germany used the bottle for the first time at 14.5 years.

More and more adolescents after coma binge drinking in clinics But not only positive things can be reported regarding the alcohol consumption of adolescents. The number of “binge drinkers” who had to be hospitalized with alcohol poisoning is still to be viewed with concern, according to statistical analyzes by the DAK. According to this, more than 25,600 adolescents with alcohol poisoning were registered in 2012. However, if you compare the figures with the 2003 figures, you can see a decline of almost 90 percent and shows how effective the government's efforts are. At the beginning of 2014, the BZgA will issue comprehensive teaching material for teachers who deal with the topic of “Alcohol and Youth”, which is suitable for grades seven to ten. (fr)

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