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Brains lose an Australian round to alcohol

Baptists and Methodists hereabouts might go Australian when they hear some of the alcohol good sense from Down Under. For the sake of teen brains, thoughtful Aussies have been pushing an increase in the drinking age from 18 to 19 (or 21). Ian Hickie, executive director of Sydney University’s Brain and Mind Research Institute, writes:

New research in neuro-science tells us that the brain continues to develop right through until the late teenage and early adult period. In fact, particularly in young men, it may not reach adult maturity till the mid-20s.

It is the frontal part of the brain that regulates complex decision making, forward planning and inhibition of impulsive behaviours that is undergoing final development at this age.

One of the most toxic things that a young brain can encounter is a high level of blood alcohol.

The issue is important there now because the Prime Minister is asking for health policy advice, and a teen binge-drinking national tradition called ”schoolies week” is upon them.

Hickie’s argument attracted support from the chairman of the Australian National Council on Drugs, John Herron and others. Jon Currie, chairman of an Australian national expert panel on alcohol, has said first consideration should be given to raising the drinking age to 21. Indeed, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that thanks to Hickie, the Prime Minister is “under pressure to raise drinking age.”

As is often the case everywhere, however, politics and good sense are at odds. On Thursday, Australian Health Minister Nicola Roxon told reporters, “It’s not on our agenda to increase the drinking age.”

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November 19, 2009 - Posted by | Health, Law |

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