This week I heard this radio program on ABC Radio National and then just received an article on teen drinking in Australia (from my High School friend, Peta Dargent Burchell). Since we were in highschool (30 years ago) teen drinking was very common but the drinking age seems to be going down and the regularity of binge drinking increasing.I dont have any data for this, just my impresion. I have plenty of friends in recovery from alcoholism (most of whom started drinking as early teens) and I was well aware of the extent of alcoholism as a deeply ingrained aspect of Australian culture by the time I was 20. So I’m not harking back to the “good old days”. However, this program and the following article from The Age this weekend point to an even worse situation. One Australian teen dies from binge drinking… every week! 60 are hospitalised, every week. Given that our population is only 20 million that’s pretty shocking. I suspect that the situation is not much different in the US or UK.

When I was at Naropa University an instructor there, Avani Dilger offered a program she calls Natural Highs to Boulder HIgh School and Naropa students. She came and did a guest lecture in my neuropsychology class. She explained about receptors and drugs and how addiction works in our human brains. She said that the single most popular part of her presentation amongst teens (in schools and also in detention) has been this specific neuroscientific information on how their brains worked, on and off drugs and alcohol. They also seem to have very healthy receptors for good solid information. So I say, in addition to Michael Carr- Gregg’s recommendation to parents to give their kids something creative and stimulating to do with their bodies and minds, that boredom is the biggest danger, I would also recommend parents educate themselves on the subject and understand the basic neuroscience too. Because even though kid’s brains are more vulnerable, we all have brains that need loving intelligent support from the community and if we don’t know how to care for ourselves, that’s exactly what we are passing on to our kids.

Brain researcher supports lifting drinking age 25/06/2011

ABC Radio

ELIZABETH JACKSON: A leading brain researcher has called on all states to follow Western Australia’s lead and consider legislating to lift the legal drinking age to 21. A West Australian parliamentary committee has found that the state has a “significant problem with excessive alcohol consumption”. It’s called for the government to issue a discussion paper about lifting the legal drinking age.

Professor Ian Hickie of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Research Institute says such a move could prevent serious permanent damage in developing adolescent brains.

David Weber reports.

Click here for radio program and transcript:

AM – Brain researcher supports lifting drinking age 25/06/2011.


Here is the article from the Age with a video interview with Michael Carr- Gregg psychologist who works with clients of this age and cites relevant research (eg the numbers I quoted above):

From interview transcript:

FIRST, 14 to 15-year-olds have four things in their lives that they have to do. They have to figure out who they are – get an identity; get themselves good friends; have some kind of emancipation from their mums and dads – some sort of separation. And they have to connect with an educational institution, so they have some kind of vocational direction in life.

Those are the four key development tasks of adolescents.

Alcohol is interfering with every single one of those four development tasks quite significantly. The current statistics are horrific. One kid dies every weekend on average in Australia from binge drinking of alcohol. Sixty kids are hospitalised every week. This is the most significant drug problem in Australia. But if you talk to mums and dads, they say: “What about cocaine? What about ice? What about marijuana?”.

If you look at the statistics, the use of these drugs is stabilising or going down. The only drug on the increase and causing significant harm is alcohol.

Click here for full transcript and video from The Age: