Religion and Alcohol Brain Damage

Some activists insist that the brain continues developing until age 21. They argue that because of this, alcohol consumption damages the brain before the 21st birthday. 1

Then why don’t they object to underage Roman Catholics and Orthodox Catholics celebrating Holy Communion and underage Jews celebrating the Kiddush?

And if alcohol really damages the brain before age 21, why aren’t Roman Catholics, Orthodox Catholics and Jews developmentally harmed through brain damage? 2

Furthermore, why aren’t Italians, Greeks, Spaniards, Portuguese, French and many other groups around the world similarly damaged from drinking before the age of 21?


  • 1. Some activists assert that the brain continues to develop until age 21 although some write that it develops until around age 21. Mothers Against Drunk Driving categorically states that “The brain continues to grow through the age of 20” (that is, until age 21). MADD. “Did you know...” Mothers Against Drunk Driving website ( However, MADD is not totally consistent. See Swartzwelder, S. Brain 101. Driven (a magazine published by MADD) posted on Mothers Against Drunk Driving website ( Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth. Consequences of Underage Drinking. Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth website ( Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (now often called the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University). Teenage Tipplers: America’s Underage Drinking Epidemic. NY: National Center on Addictions and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, 2002.
  • 2. Keller, M. et al. Alcohol in Italian Culture. Glencoe, IL: Free Press, 1958; Snyder, C.R. Alcohol and the Jews: A Cultural Study of Drinking and Sobriety. Glencoe, IL: Free Press, 1958. Greeley, A.M. Ethnic Drinking Subcultures. NY: Praeger, 1980. Hanson, D.J. Preventing Alcohol Abuse: Alcohol, Culture and Control. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1995.