Over the last year, I’ve posted two margarita recipes in the Organic Authority blog: the Cinco de Mayo Margarita (right) and, more recently, yesterday’s Fourth of July Northwest Cherry Bomb Margarita. Personally, I’m not much of a drinker, but I enjoy a well-blended margarita during holiday celebrations or special occasions. The key, as with anything else, is moderation.

I am concerned, however, about teenage drinking, which starts much earlier these days than when I was in high school. Approximately 1 million U.S. high school students are frequent heavy drinkers. If you’re a parent who’s dedicated to organic living, be aware of the most recent study published in the July issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. Researchers found that those who start drinking at a younger age may face a higher risk of alcohol dependence throughout their lifetime.

Past surveys have found that 28% of high school students begin drinking before age 13, and they’re more likely to drink until they’re intoxicated than those who wait until age 17 or older to start drinking. Heavy drinking places them at risk for dangerous behaviors, including driving while intoxicated, carrying guns, injuring themselves in fights, attempting suicide, having unprotected sex and earning low grades in school.

Dr. Ralph W. Hingson and colleagues at the Youth Alcohol Prevention Center at the Boston University School of Public Health analyzed results from a national survey of 43,093 adults conducted in 2001–2002. Subjects were asked about demographics, behavior, history of depression, drug use, family history of alcohol dependence and the age at which they began drinking. Those who met the criteria for alcohol dependence were asked how old they were when they first began to drink.

Forty-seven percent of those who began drinking before age 14 experienced alcohol dependence during their lifetimes, compared with 9% who began drinking at 21 or older. Those who started younger were also more likely to be alcohol-dependent within 10 years of beginning drinking.

The researchers hope this study highlights the need for parents, pediatricians and other healthcare professionals to discuss alcohol use with teens and discourage drinking at younger ages.