Lower Legal Drinking Age Linked to Later ProblemsLast Updated: September 24, 2009. Individuals who were able to legally purchase alcohol at younger ages may have a higher risk of recent alcohol or drug disorders, even decades later, according to a study published online Sept. 23 in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.
THURSDAY, Sept. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Individuals who were able to legally purchase alcohol at younger ages may have a higher risk of recent alcohol or drug disorders, even decades later, according to a study published online Sept. 23 in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.
Karen E. Norberg, M.D., of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and colleagues analyzed data from 33,869 individuals born from 1948 to 1970 during two periods in which minimum ages for legal alcohol purchase were first falling, then later rising. The main outcome was meeting DSM-IV criteria for alcohol, marijuana, or other illegal substance abuse or dependence in the previous year.
The authors found that adults who could legally buy alcohol before the age of 21 years had a higher likelihood of meeting criteria for alcohol use disorder or other drug use disorder (odds ratios, 1.31 and 1.70, respectively), even during middle age.
"These surprisingly strong results are consistent with the hypothesis that late adolescence may be a 'sensitive period' for an environmental exposure closely tied to the timing of changing minimum legal purchase age laws. However, the minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) effects do not seem to be working through age of drinking initiation, per se; instead, we hypothesize that the long-term effects of MLDA exposure may work through the frequency and intensity of drinking or the social networks and social norms around drinking that develop in late adolescence," the authors write.
A co-author reported inventor status on a patent related to the genetics of addiction and a financial relationship with Pfizer.
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