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At a recent happy hour with my coworkers, we started talking about our 21st birthdays. There were the usual tales of being taken out by friends to have their first legal drink, with lots of admissions that they had had alcohol well before that milestone birthday.

When it came to me, I told the truth: I didn't go out and have drinks with friends, and I hadn't had any alcohol before that birthday. I had my first drink a few weeks after my birthday - a glass of wine at a restaurant with some friends. At first, my coworkers were a little shocked, but then they teased me good-naturedly.

Several of my coworkers predicted that they would probably be punished for their teenage drinking by having to go through the same thing with their children. A few of them were disturbed to think that they may one day catch their own children sneaking drinks before the age of 21.


And for good reason. In some new studies, researchers have linked the early intake of alcohol leading to long-lasting brain abnormalities in adulthood. The problems cover a wide range of issues from memory loss to an inability to learn new tasks. Alcohol does more damage to a still-developing brain (like the one we had as teenagers) than to an adult brain (like the one we hopefully had at 21).

I have been thinking about these things as I sometimes drink wine with dinner. My son has asked to taste wine before, and the first time he said he liked it, but then later admitted that he really didn't. My husband and I have talked to him before about "adult drinks" and how he might like them one day but that he needed to wait until he was much older to try them. I think an important part of that ongoing conversation is making sure he understands the reasons why he needs to wait.

How old were you when you had your first real drink? Share you story in the comments.

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