No booze until you're 21

By admin
18 March 2011

It’s a typical Saturday night on the streets of South Africa.

The pavements of Long Street, Cape Town, are crowded with young people ready to hit the nightclubs. In Newtown in Johannesburg loud music pours from a number of party venues. On Florida Road in Durban trendy youths navigate the hot spots looking to party the night away. And everywhere liquor flows freely for those over 18.

But this might become a thing of the past if lawmakers have their way. If a new law proposed by social development minister Bathabile Dlamini is passed young people won’t be able to buy or consume alcohol in public before they turn 21. Dlamini says she wants to build safe and healthy communities.

The question is: can 18-year-olds be stopped from buying and drinking liquor when they’re legally regarded as adults and allowed to vote, drive and marry?

But some say if the new law protects even a handful of people it would be worth it because the dangers alcohol holds for young people extend much further than many people realise.

Brain development stops at the age of 25 which means the brain of an 18-year-old is affected by alcohol differently and more negatively than that of someone older.

Research by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has shown that excessive use of alcohol causes the adolescent brain to suffer greater levels of alcohol-induced impairment especially in terms of memory loss.

According to Anstice Wright, clinical director and psychotherapist at the Oasis Rehabilitation Centre in Cape Town, young people are more prone to alcohol addiction because they’re unable to cope with stress and change in their lives.

“It’s a drug that offers an escape from reality and it’s effective because the effects of alcohol on the body and the brain cause blackouts and memory loss – which addicts welcome.”

Although children in South Africa aren’t allowed to buy liquor until they’re 18 some start drinking at a much earlier age and alcohol is often smuggled into teen parties.

“If children are drinking at age 12 or 13, raising the legal age won’t make a difference to their behaviour,” Industry Association for Responsible Alcohol Use (ARA) spokesman Adrian Botha says.

“From an industry perspective ARA supports any effective way of dealing with alcohol abuse and underage drinking. But there is no silver bullet to fix these issues.” Botha believes responsible parenting is the most effective method of resolving or curbing underage drinking.

The proposed law would have to be assessed through legislative channels before it’s passed – which could take more than a year. Meanwhile South Africa’s young people continue to party the night away.

Read the full article in the YOU of 24 March 2011

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