Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Teen drinking under parent's eye not harmless: Damages brain, encourages trouble

The European model of letting teens experiment with drinking at home – with meals or socially – doesn’t stand up to its alleged benefits of keeping them free of danger or educating them about responsible use. New research from Australia’s National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre suggests rethinking when parents permit young people to use alcohol because of damage to the brain.

The popular European theory has parents claiming 'they're better off drinking at home with me where I can supervise' in the belief this somehow protects teens from binge drinking later. The Research Centre studied 2000 families over four years and proved it doesn't work.

In the U.S. a 2011 Monitoring the Future Survey found one third of U.S. eighth graders and seven of 10 high school seniors had tried alcohol. Thirteen percent of eighth graders and 40 percent of twelfth graders drank during the past month. The Australian study found teenagers whose parents supply alcohol in early adolescence are three times as likely to be drinking full servings of alcohol at age 16 as children in families that do not supply alcohol.

Teen drinking, however, alters DNA, damages a developing brain, and can lead to health and behavioral trouble later on, according to the Australian study. (See related 2013 examiner article on Alcohol and DNA.) John Scott from Australia’s DrinkWise says: "We'd advise that parents delay for as long as possible, acknowledging that many parents know that their kids are going to start drinking or sneaking the occasional drink, but we'd say delay as long as possible."

Aside from the negative health outcomes, Ian Hickie from the University of Sydney’s Brain & Mind Research Institute says the assumed behavioral benefit of having kids ‘learn’ to drink at home doesn’t hold water: "In fact, it's the opposite, you've probably normalized the behavior and probably increase the chance that they'll drink irresponsibly in another place."

"Underage drinking should not be a normal part of growing up. It's a serious and persistent public health problem that puts our young people and our communities in danger," said U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. "Even though drinking is often glamorized, the truth is that underage drinking can lead to poor academic performance, sexual assault, injury, and even death." Teen drinking also can lead to alcohol abuse as an adult or the disease of alcoholism.

Oh, yeah… it’s also illegal in the U.S. and, in most jurisdictions, against the law for parents to supply it.

Parents have the biggest influence on their teen's drinking, and their vulnerable developing brains. Hickie adds, "It's important for you to say 'I'm concerned because your brain's still growing, I'm concerned that you won't get the maximum brain function at the end of the day.

“Being a responsible drinker comes down to making good decisions. To make good decisions, you need a brain that's reached full potential,” he concluded.

Visit for a replay of the Bringing Inspiration To Earth show feature with Scott Stevens. Lucy Pireel's "All That's Written" included a feature on Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud called "When alcohol doesn't work for you anymore."  Details on the third literary award for Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud also can be found on, plus an interview with Scott Stevens on Health Media Now and one at Christoph Fisher Books.  Mr. Fisher is an acclaimed international author from the UK, among his works is the Alzheimer's book "Time to Let Go."