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Parents who give their children alcohol increase the risk that they will binge drink in their teenage years, an Australian study has found.

There is no evidence to support the view that parents who give their children alcohol are reducing the risk of binge drinking or alcohol-related harms in their teenage years, found the study involving just under 2000 adolescents between 12 and 18 years old.

There is no evidence to support the view that parents who give their children alcohol are reducing the risk of binge drinking or alcohol-related harms in their teenage years.  

Teenagers whose parents allow them to drink are twice as likely to access alcohol through other sources and engage in binge drinking, the researchers reported on Friday in Lancet Public Health.

Teenagers given alcohol by their parents were 95 per cent more likely to binge drink – more than four standard drinks in one sitting – in the future than those who had found another way to score a drink.

"This reinforces the fact that alcohol consumption leads to harm, no matter how it is supplied," said lead author Professor Richard Mattick, a drug and alcohol dependency and behaviour expert at UNSW. "We advise that parents should avoid supplying alcohol to their teenagers if they wish to reduce their risk of alcohol-related harms."

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Today's teenagers are turning their backs on Australia's excessive drinking culture, and shunning other drugs, in a change that has been dubbed a modern "youth revolution".

A study involving more than 41,000 Australian adolescents (average age 13.5) has observed a staggering drop in rates of teen alcohol consumption and smoking since 1999

At the turn of the century, almost 70 per cent of surveyed teenagers had already drunk alcohol. By 2015, that figure that dropped to 45 per cent, meaning high school students abstaining from alcohol are now in the majority.

An author of the study, Professor John Toumbourou​, said while the adult population were also showing signs of moderating their alcohol consumption, it did not compare to the sharp trend within the secondary school population.

"They are making changes that are much more dramatic to other age groups," said Professor Toumbourou, chair in health psychology at Deakin University.

"It's a new, youth-led revolution."

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If you had told me a few years ago that my husband and I would completely cut alcohol out of our life, I would’ve laughed you off sarcastically as we raised our wine glasses for yet another clink and sip and then mocked that ridiculous comment. I mean, come on, who doesn’t drink in today’s society? Apart from certain religious groups, pregnant women or recovering alcoholics.

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Key findings 

  • Change in alcohol consumption per capita was significantly and positively associated with change in both male and female head and neck cancer mortality, particularly among males and females aged 50 and above. 
  • Change in alcohol consumption per capita was significantly and positively associated with change in male liver cancer mortality, particularly among males aged 50-69. 
  • The results suggest that one litre decreases in annual alcohol consumption per capita were associated with reductions of 11.6 per cent in male and 7.3 per cent in female head and neck cancer mortality across a 20-year period. 
  • The results also suggest that one litre decreases in annual alcohol consumption per capita were associated with a reduction of male liver cancer mortality of 15.0 per cent across a 20-year period. 
  • In total, it is estimated from the analysis that about 6.5 per cent of male and 4.1 per cent of female head and neck cancer deaths were related to alcohol consumption in Australia between 1968 and 2011.
  • Alcohol consumption was estimated to be responsible for 8.4 per cent of male liver cancer deaths in Australia in the last 50 years

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Published 15 September 2017  By Tim Newman

Researchers uncover changes in brain activity associated with binge drinking. Earlier studies showed that alcoholic people have measurable changes in their resting brain activity. And now, for the first time, researchers find similar changes in the brains of non-alcoholic students who binge drink.

Non-bingers' and bingers' brains compared

When the neural activity of the two groups was compared, there were significant differences. More specifically, there was a measurable increase in beta and theta oscillations in the right temporal lobe - particularly the parahippocampal and fusiform gyri - and the occipital cortex.

The parahippocampal gyrus is believed to play a part in coding and retrieving memories. The fusiform gyrus does not have a well-defined role to date but seems to be involved in recognition. The occipital cortex deals with processing visual information.

Interestingly, the increased activity in these areas mirrors those found in the brains of chronic alcoholics.

The researchers believe that the alterations in brain activity might be early signs of alcohol-induced brain damage. Changes in these regions may indicate a reduction in their ability to respond to external stimuli, which may hamper information processing.

Younger brains are still developing, and the researchers believe that this might make them more vulnerable to alcohol damage.

"These features might be down to the particularly harmful effects of alcohol on young brains that are still in development, perhaps by delaying neuromaturational processes." Eduardo López-Caneda

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