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Research Shows Why Young People Shouldn't Drink

Research Shows Why Young People Shouldn't Drink

Friday, August 5, 2016

Talk It OutA state effort to curb underage drinking is getting a boost from university researchers.

The North Carolina ABC Commission's "Talk It Out" campaign is focusing on educating parents and their children about the impact drinking has on young brains. A report for the campaign by researchers at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill shows how alcohol affects the adolescent brain.

Jim Gardner, chairman of the commission, said the research is a key part of the campaign, which started in 2014. The campaign's website at talkitoutnc.org includes an easy-to-understand summary of the research.

"This is probably the most complicated thing we've tried to do," he said.

Research shows that the brain isn't fully developed until people are 25 years old, Gardner said.

Wilkie Wilson, research professor of prevention science at Duke's Social Science Research Institute, said in a statement released by the campaign that the adolescent brain responds differently to alcohol than an adult brain.

"Because of the unique way their brains are wired, adolescents are prone to risk-taking behavior and are more inclined to binge drink," he said. "Binge drinking slows — and can ultimately stop — the functioning of important components of the brain that control things like breathing."

Gardner said he found out about the impact of underage drinking when the daughter of a friend drank too much. The girl, who was in college, passed out and had to be treated by emergency workers.

Luther Snyder, the director of the state initiative to reduce underage drinking, said that when parents tell their children not to drink, the young people want to know why.

"We're trying to arm the parents with the actual factual information that answers that question," he said.

Gardner said an average of one person per week dies as the result of underage drinking. The issue costs the state $1 billion a year in healthcare cost, he said.

"We've got a responsibility to the state to do something," he said.

The campaign includes 30-second videos that Gardner calls "hard-hitting." One showing a teenage girl lying on the floor includes breathing noises that stop just before the video ends.

Gardner said parents need to talk to their children about the dangers of drinking.

"Our whole thrust is to start at a young age," he said.

Snyder said the 91 percent of parents who saw the campaign's videos talked to their children about drinking.

"If we can save a kid's life, that's what we're after," he said.

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