by Lisa Frederiksen
As I’ve written in other posts, the key Risk Factors for developing the disease of addiction (whether to drugs or alcohol) are:
- genetics (if it runs in the family, genetic predisposition);
- social environment (where heavy drinking is viewed as “normal” and encouraged);
- childhood trauma (verbal, physical, emotional abuse – which “wires” unhealthy coping skills and brain changes);
- early use (drinking before the brain is fully developed somewhere between ages 22 and 25); and
- mental illness (e.g., depression, anxiety, ADHD, PTSD, bipolar – which also cause brain changes and a potential to “self medicate” with alcohol).
To understand WHY early use is one of these key risk factors, I urge you to read the American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement, “Alcohol Use by Youth and Adolescents: A Pediatric Concern.”
This is especially important information for parents, teachers, counselors and others who work with children. Quoting from the abstract: “The integration of alcohol use prevention programs in the community and our educational system from elementary school through college should be promoted by pediatricians and the health care community.”
I’m sharing the time lapse study below, conducted by Dr. Paul Thompson, UCLA Lab of Neuro-Imaging and Brain Mapping Division, Dept. Neurology and Brain Research Institute, to help demonstrate the significance of brain development that occurs from ages 5 – 20 and beyond. This is further discussed in this related post:How Teens Can Become Alcoholics Before Age 21.