- Vijay Simha
On 14 July a friend called from Canada to say his daughter, 16, told him she'd like to drink beer. The father, a recovering alcoholic who moved from Gurgaon to Canada, was taken aback. He called to ask what might be an appropriate response.
A day later, a hundred schoolchildren were caught drinking and smoking in a Gurgaon pub. We tried to understand what it meant in this article. The rumble from the story hasn't died and raids on pubs have become a part of daily police routine in Gurgaon – at least for a while.
What is a right age to drink? We'll try to figure this out because it is a perennial question people ask in my counseling sessions.
The best age to drink
The best age to drink, with minimum damage to the brain, is 27. Every time I say this, it startles people.
There are sound reasons why 27 is the best age to start drinking, if you must. Three simple and basic fundamentals of this are:
The human brain is able to adapt until the age of 26. There's no point in harming a brain even before it is fully formed. Alcohol and other drugs affect the brain. It makes sense to wait until the brain is ready.
Almost all addiction starts in the teens. People who begin taking substances in their late 20s or early 30s rarely become dependent on drugs and alcohol.
Chemical adulthood is different from legal adulthood. There's no risk to life by voting, marrying or driving at, say, 18 or 21. But there's a big risk to life when chemical substances come in early.
We had initiated a campaign 'Not Until 27' in September 2012 in Dehradun based on these. In my interactions, I find that generally 20 to 25 per cent teenagers agree to stay off substances until later in life.
It is a decent starting point although not all of them may be able to abstain until 27. But this is encouraging nevertheless. Part of the acceptance may be coming from the message. We don't say no. We say, hang on for a bit.
Image: This photo taken on July 29, 2011 shows an Indian bartender serving handcrafted beers to patrons at the Doolally micro brewery at the 1st Brewhouse Restaurant in Pune. (AFP)