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
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>.▪