Professional News
MH Agencies Develop Strategy to Reduce Underage Drinking
Psychiatric News
Volume 42 Number 7 page 12-28

Underage drinking in the United States will continue to threaten the health and well-being of young people until the government, school officials, and health care professionals work together to reduce its prevalence, according to Acting Surgeon General Kenneth Moritsugu, M.D., M.P.H.

To this end, the U.S. Surgeon General's Office in March issued a national call to action on underage drinking.

"Too many Americans consider underage drinking a rite of passage to adulthood," Moritsugu said in a press release issued by the Department of Health and Human Services. "Research shows that young people who start drinking before the age of 15 are five times more likely to have alcohol-related problems later in life."

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, there were 11 million underage drinkers in the United States in 2005, and nearly 7.2 million of those were considered binge drinkers. Binge drinking is defined as consuming more than five alcoholic beverages on one occasion.

To reduce the prevalence of underage drinking in this country, the Surgeon General's Office, together with the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, developed six goals:

Jerald Kay, M.D., who is chair of APA's Corresponding Committee on Mental Health on College and University Campuses, cited data from a report of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University indicating that nearly half of the nation's 5.4 million college students have reported binge drinking.

"There is a great need for psychiatry on the majority of college campuses to treat, educate, and counter significant stigma that prevents young people from seeking help. These alarming data should not be construed as an example of normal development or rite of passage," he told Psychiatric News.

The press release from the Office of Health and Human Services on underage drinking is posted at<www.hhs.gov/news/press/2007pres/20070306.html>.

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