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Health Agencies Update
February 18, 1998

Drinking Age

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JAMA. 1998;279(7):494. doi:10.1001/jama.279.7.494-JHA81008-2-1

The earlier a person starts drinking, the greater the likelihood he or she will one day abuse alcohol, according to a new report released last month by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

Individuals who began drinking before the age of 15 years were 4 times more likely to develop alcohol dependence (alcoholism) and twice as likely to abuse alcohol as people who began drinking at the age of 21 years.

The report (J Subst Abuse. 1998;9:103-110) was based on interviews with nearly 43000 adults who were asked when they first began drinking alcohol.

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