The age of onset to begin regular drinking is an important predictor of age of first alcohol problem and subsequent alcohol dependence (1,2), as well as greater severity and persistence of problems with illicit drugs (3).
For individuals that initiated drinking prior to age 14 years, the likelihood of adult alcohol dependence was 40%, four times more likely than individuals who began drinking at 20 years or older (2) . It was also reported that individuals that drank before age 14 years were more than twice as likely to become alcohol dependent than those trying alcohol after age 16 years (4).
A number of factors such as early adverse childhood experiences (5,6) and familial density of alcoholism (7,8), predict earlier age of drinking onset.
Earlier onset of drinking also appears to be related to the presence of behaviors often characterized as “disinhibited”.There is also abundant evidence that behavioral under-control is an important determinant of later development of substance use disorders (SUD) (9,10). Behavioral under-control observed as early as 3 years is predictive of alcohol-related problems at 21 years (11), and in adolescents mediates the relationship between family history of alcoholism and young adult SUDs (12)
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12. King KM, Chassin L. Mediating and moderated effects of adolescent behavioral undercontrol and parenting in the prediction of drug use disorders in emerging adulthood.Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. 2004;18(3):239–249.
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