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Teen Drinking May Lead to Adult Alcohol Dependence

Last Updated: February 21, 2011.

Evidence suggests that higher alcohol consumption in late adolescence continues into adulthood and is associated with alcohol-related problems such as dependence, according to a literature review published online Feb. 8 in PLoS Medicine.

MONDAY, Feb. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Evidence suggests that higher alcohol consumption in late adolescence continues into adulthood and is associated with alcohol-related problems such as dependence, according to a literature review published online Feb. 8 in PLoS Medicine.

Jim McCambridge, Ph.D., from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and colleagues reviewed 19 general-population cohort studies of drinking between the ages of 15 and 19 to determine whether a causal relationship between teen drinking and long-term consequences, such as death, alcohol dependence, criminal offences, mental health, educational attainment, and smoking, in adulthood could be inferred.

The researchers found that, although there is consistent evidence that higher alcohol consumption in late adolescence continues into adulthood and is associated with long-term alcohol-related problems, most study designs were too weak to support direct causality. Although some studies suggested a link between teen drinking and physical, mental-health problems, and social consequences in adulthood, the evidence was not strong enough to infer causality.

"There is an urgent need for high-quality long-term prospective cohort studies in order to better understand the public health burden that is consequent on late-adolescent drinking, both in relation to adult drinking and more broadly. Reducing drinking during late adolescence is likely to be important for preventing long-term adverse consequences as well as protecting against more immediate harms," the authors write.

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