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Drinking age limit: Adolescent drinking may affect brain

Thursday, 7 July 2011 - 8:00am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA
Article 47 of the Indian Constitution states: “The state shall endeavour to bring about prohibition of the use, except for medicinal purposes, of intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health.”

Article 47 of the Indian Constitution states: “The state shall endeavour to bring about prohibition of the use, except for medicinal purposes, of intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health.”

The raising of the legal limit of alcohol consumption would only be in keeping with the wisdom of the founding fathers of our nation.

As a result of the laxity in the implementation of the prohibition laws and the connivance of liquor dealers with excise officials in obtaining permits for anybody who desired to purchase alcohol, regardless of the age, alcohol consumption has risen hugely.

The media is also culpable for encouraging the consumption of alcohol by portraying drinking in congenial social settings, by associating drinking with glamour and celebrity status, and by direct and surrogate advertising.

I am one of those who strongly advocate total prohibition, but I know that will not happen. At least raising the legal age of consuming alcohol would reduce the damage.

I can state from experience that 80% teenagers consume alcohol by the time they complete high school; 30% report having been drunk in the past month and 29% report having five or more drinks in a row in the past two weeks.

A person who begins drinking as a teen is four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than someone who waits until adulthood to use alcohol. I feel that in India, an 18-year-old does not possess the maturity to handle life as a result of the joint family system.

During adolescence, significant changes occur in the body, including the formation of new networks in the brain. Alcohol use during this time may affect brain development.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death involving people in the 15-25 age group. The rate of fatal crashes among drunken drivers in the 16-25 age group is more than twice the rate for drunken drivers who are 25 or older. Alcohol use also is linked with youthful deaths by drowning, suicide and homicide.

Alcohol use is associated with many adolescent risk behaviours, including other drug use and delinquency, weapon carrying and fighting and date rapes.

— Dr YA Matcheswalla is honorary professor at the Sir JJ Group of Hospitals, consultant psychiatrist at Masina Hospital, and runs a de-addiction centre in Mumbai.




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