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Teen Problem Drinking Not a Phase, Study Shows

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A new study led by a researcher at Indiana University suggests that drinking problems in teens is not “just a phase,” but strongly predicts they will be alcohol dependent in their twenties, CNN Health reported Feb. 15.

Researchers assessed the drinking problems of 597 Finnish twins at age 18 by giving them the Rutgers Alcohol Problem Index (RAPI), a self-administered questionnaire. They followed up with in-person interviews when the twins reached age 25.

They found that 52 percent of the study participants showed problem drinking at 18 based on their RAPI scores. Those scores held at age 25, when nearly half of the participants were assessed as dependent on alcohol (46.2 percent) or met criteria for alcohol abuse (1.5 percent).

“The key finding was that the more drinking-related problems experienced by an adolescent at age 18, the greater the likelihood that adolescent would be diagnosed with alcoholism seven years later, at age 25,” said Richard R. Rose of Indiana University, who led the study. “The analysis of co-twins ruled out factors such as parental drinking and household atmosphere as the source of the association, because twins jointly experience these.”

The researchers recommended early screening for alcohol problems as an important part of reducing alcohol dependence.

The full study, “Rutgers Alcohol Problem Index Scores at Age 18 Predict Alcohol Dependence Diagnoses 7 Years Later,” was published online Feb. 11, in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

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