One beer at 14 'leads to binge drinking risk'
A SINGLE glass of wine or beer at the age of 14 can help a young teenager along the path to binge drinking, say scientists.
Early alcohol experience is one of a wide range of factors that can be used to identify future binge drinkers, new research has shown.
Others include personality traits such as risk and sensation-seeking, family history, genetics and brain structure.
Combining these factors, they were able to predict who from a large group of 14-year-olds would be binge drinking by the age of 16 with 70pc accuracy.
Having even a single alcoholic drink at the age of 14 was shown to be a "powerful" predictor of binge drinking, possibly because of its association with risk-taking and impulsivity.
Dr Hugh Garavan, from the University of Vermont, who co-led the study, said the vulnerable period between the ages of 14 and 16 was "critical" to a young person's future drinking behaviour.
"Just delaying people drinking by six months or a year is actually a very, very substantial intervention that would have vast beneficial consequences," he added.
"It's not the case that there's a single one or two or three variables that are critical," said Dr Garavan.
"The final model was very broad - it suggests that a wide mixture of reasons underlie teenage drinking."
Co-author Prof Gunter Schumann, from the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London, said: "This work will inform the development of specific early interventions in carriers of the risk profile to reduce the incidence of adolescent substance abuse."
The findings appear in the journal Nature.