Just when are you an adult?  The law says it’s when you turn 18. The bartender says it’s when you turn 21. But when are you really a functional adult?

Young people make bad decisions because their brains have not caught up with the calendar. The part of the brain that helps you make mature, balanced, thought out decisions is about half a decade behind.  New research indicates our brains do not reach adulthood until we are much older. Ignoring the research could be damaging to young people.

Like our brains themselves, scientists have taken a while to mature on this subject.  Previous thought was that adolescence began around puberty and ended in the late teens. Today researchers believe the brain does not reach full development until at least the age of 24. That has serious ramifications for understanding young people and risk-taking behavior like drinking and drug consumption. Activities such as these are fueled by hormones and a lack of self-control.

“The number one cause of death among adolescents is an injury resulting from an accident often triggered by unnecessary or excessive risk-taking.” 

 US researchers also believe that heavy drinking during the teenage years, before the brain is fully matured, can affect the development of spatial memory.  

A medical journal editorial recently pronounced, “Young people are our future assets, they provide energy, innovation, productivity and progress…Adolescent health [should be] an equal concern alongside existing health priorities in the world.”

We agree, but what exactly does raising the drinking age to 24 look like?  No drivers license till 24?  How do we best help our young not-yet adults?