A recently published, 23-year study followed more than 1,200 adolescents through adulthood to monitor their alcohol consumption patterns and evolving mental health. The study author, Michael Windle, began interviewing the subjects at the age of 15, in 1988. The last interviews were conducted when they were 38.
Windle and his team found the most alcohol dependency among their subjects when they were in their mid-20s.
"When I started doing studies in this area, the national perception of an alcoholic was that of a 40-something blue-collar white male sleeping in the gutter," Windle told Emory University's Public Health Magazine. "My studies and others have shown that alcohol dependency is highest for men and women between ages 23 and 27. That makes a world of difference in terms of treatment and prevention— what you should be doing and when."
The scientists also found that more than 80 percent of their subjects who drank heavily as adults engaged in troubling behaviors as children, such as stealing, fighting or running away from home.
The researchers reported that teen boys showed a tendency to drink in order to bond with peers. They noted that higher levels of anxiety and depression among teen girl subjects seem to have explained their drinking habits.
Such patterns of problematic behavior and substance abuse beginning in a person's early life and continuing through adulthood may be indicative of underlying mental health issues. Dr. M.K. (Khal) El-Yousef founded Fairwinds Treatment Center in 1989 with the express purpose of treating those who suffer from both alcohol dependency and psychological challenges like anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder. For the last 25 years, Fairwinds has been focused on helping patients achieve lasting wellness through its unique dual diagnosis treatment plan, which addresses patients' mental health problems as well as their addictions for complete recovery.