New research into teenage drinking and substance abuse shows that those who drink before they are 17 are three times more likely to binge drink, drink drive, be alcohol-dependent and use other drugs than their non-drinking peers.
Researchers from the University of Otago‘s Christchurch Health and Development study also found that if they drink before the age of 13, they were twice as likely to binge drink, drink drive and have other alcohol-related problems.
Drinking frequently in the early morning, as well early binge drinking was a predictor of future problems with alcohol and drinking once a week was linked to later problems.
Weekly drinking before 17 years of age also increased the risk of smoking cigarettes in adulthood by 60 per cent.
One of the study’s authors Associate Professor Joe Boden of the University of Otago says the study's findings suggest that delaying when teenagers start consuming alcohol could have benefits.
He believes there should be a focus on curbing the amount of times people drink alcohol.
The study proposed possible reforms with an increase of the minimum purchase age and the reducing of the availability of alcohol.
The study looked at 9000 New Zealanders and Australians aged 13-30 and the results were published in the Addiction journal.