"We chose to look at adolescents of 15, 16 years of age because that is a relatively circumscribed period of brain development," said Susan F. Tapert, project scientist and research fellow at the University of California, San Diego and one of the study's lead authors. "Certain brain developments, such as the refinement of neural connections, are completed by about age 16. Developments in the frontal lobes - parts of the brain that are important in judgement, planning and problem solving - continue until about age 16. This potentially important time for brain development is also a time when some teens start drinking quite a bit."
It can be misleading to call alcohol a "gateway drug" for youth simply because it often precedes the use of illicit drugs. As reported in the July 1997 edition of Alcohol Alert, a survey of 4,390 high school seniors found that approximately 80 percent reported getting drunk, binge drinking, or drinking and driving within the preceding year. The national Monitoring the Future Study, 1975-1997 found that more than 34 percent of hig
Contact: Sandra A. Brown, Ph.D.
Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research