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Should the legal age for buying alcohol be raised to 21 years?

Evidence and support is increasing to raise the minimum age for buying alcohol in Australia

Harmful alcohol consumption is a prevention priority in Australia. Frequent or episodic binge drinking (consuming five or more standard drinks on a single occasion) is of specific concern among youth because of their neurobiological vulnerability to the effects of alcohol. There is increasing evidence that key aspects of brain and related neurocognitive development continue into early adulthood. Available evidence associates short- and longer-term cognitive impairment during the postpubertal and early adult years with an earlier age-of-onset of harmful alcohol consumption.1 Although ethical limitations preclude human experimental trials, there is emerging neuropsychological and brain-imaging evidence associating binge drinking or persistent high levels of alcohol use with adverse impacts on brain development (notably of the frontal lobe and frontal–striatal circuits) in young people.1 The ways in which such harms may accumulate are increasingly considered within a developmental framework that seeks to identify pathways to alcohol-induced brain impairment.1 This pathway-based approach emphasises the potential benefits that may result from earlier modification of patterns of excessive alcohol use. A delay in the age of exposure to the toxic effects of…