By Staff Writer
Despite the fact that the legal drinking age in the U.S. is 21, many young people engage in binge drinking well before then. This may have dangerous consequences for their long-term health and increase their need for addiction treatment, according to one expert.
Dr. Aric Sigman of the UK’s Royal Society of Medicine told the Telegraph that early exposure to alcohol can cause a number of health complications, including damage to genetic material, mental development, and physical fitness. Even in small amounts, drinking alcohol may interfere with healthy growth.
He said that young people should ideally wait until the age of 24 before they start consuming alcohol, as the majority of people are not fully developed physically or mentally until this age. However, Sigman told the news source that alcohol consumption has become so ingrained into the culture that it would be hard to get many people to wait this long.
Despite these warnings, underage alcohol consumption remains a significant problem. A 2009 survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 42 percent of high school students in the U.S. admitted to drinking some amount of alcohol in the previous 30 days. Furthermore, 24 percent confessed to binge drinking.