Het is een idee dat al ouder is, namelijk vroeg beginnen met alcohol geeft meer kans op verslaving eenmaal volwassen. Deze nieuwe, longitudinale studie van Blomeyer et al. bevestigt dit, maar toont dat er een specifieke correlatiepiek ligt tijdens de pubertijd (verwar niet met adolescentie), Miriam Schneider ook betrokken bij het onderzoek stelt:
“Most teenagers have their first alcoholic drink during puberty, however, most research on the risks of early-onset alcohol use up to now has not focused on the pubertal stage during which the first alcoholic drink is consumed. Common thinking in alcohol research was that the earlier adolescents begin, the more deleterious become their drinking habits. However, a closer look at the statistics revealed a peak risk of alcohol use disorders for those beginning at 12 to 14 years of age, while even earlier beginners seemed to have a slightly lower risk. Since timing of puberty is not a simple function of chronological age, and also greatly differs between the sexes, the pubertal phase at first drink may therefore represent a stronger and better indicator for subsequent alcohol-related problems than simply the age.”
De onderzoekers pleiten om zeker campagnes te richten op deze leeftijdsgroep.
Schneider vat de vermoedelijke verklaring nog samen: “In summary, puberty is a very critical developmental period due to ongoing neurodevelopmental processes in the brain. It is exactly during puberty that substances like drugs of abuse – alcohol, cannabis, etc. – may induce the most destructive and also persistent effects on the still developing brain, which may in some cases even result in neuropsychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia or addictive disorders. Prevention work therefore needs to increase awareness of specific risks and vulnerability related to puberty.” (bron)
Abstract van het onderzoek:
Background: Early alcohol use is one of the strongest predictors of later alcohol use disorders, with early use usually taking place during puberty. Many researchers have suggested drinking during puberty as a potential biological basis of the age at first drink (AFD) effect. However, the influence of the pubertal phase at alcohol use initiation on subsequent drinking in later life has not been examined so far.
Methods: Pubertal stage at first drink (PSFD) was determined in N = 283 young adults (131 males, 152 females) from an epidemiological cohort study. At ages 19, 22, and 23 years, drinking behavior (number of drinking days, amount of alcohol consumed, hazardous drinking) was assessed using interview and questionnaire methods. Additionally, an animal study examined the effects of pubertal or adult ethanol (EtOH) exposure on voluntary EtOH consumption in later life in 20 male Wistar rats.
Results: PSFD predicted drinking behavior in humans in early adulthood, indicating that individuals who had their first drink during puberty displayed elevated drinking levels compared to those with postpubertal drinking onset. These findings were corroborated by the animal study, in which rats that received free access to alcohol during the pubertal period were found to consume more alcohol as adults, compared to the control animals that first came into contact with alcohol during adulthood.
Conclusions: The results point to a significant role of stage of pubertal development at first contact with alcohol for the development of later drinking habits. Possible biological mechanisms and implications for prevention are discussed.