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Shorter time between teens’ first drink and getting drunk can lead to greater chance of alcohol issues later

The shorter the time between a teen’s first drink and the first time they get drunk, the greater the risk of binge drinking during adolescence, according to a new study.

"Our research suggests that teenagers who have their first drink at an early age drink more heavily, on average, than those who start drinking later on," Meghan E. Morean, assistant professor of psychology at Oberlin College, Ohio, adjunct assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine and an author of the study, said in a press release.

But, there’s more to these results that show why it’s so critical to talk often with your kids about underage drinking.

"Our work also suggests that how quickly teenagers move from having their first drink to getting drunk for the first time is an important piece of the puzzle,” Morean said. “In total, having your first drink at a young age and quickly moving to drinking to the point of getting drunk are associated with underage alcohol use and binge drinking.”

With binge drinking defined as five or more drinks on an occasion, the study surveyed 295 high school students who drink and asked them when they first tried alcohol, when they first got drunk, how often they drank in the first month and how often they engaged in binge drinking.

“If age of any use is the primary risk factor, our efforts should be primarily focused on preventing initiation of any use,” William Corbin of Arizona State University said in the release. “If, however, age of first intoxication — or delay from first use to first intoxication — is a unique risk factor above and beyond age of first use, prevention efforts should also target those who have already begun drinking in an effort to prevent the transition to heavy drinking.”

Parents, it is important to prevent your child from taking that first drink underage. But if your child has tried alcohol, it is obviously critical that they don’t continue to do so.

The full results of the study are available online.

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