Date Published: 7 March 2007

AMA supports call to action on preventing underage drinking

Health News from the United States of America (USA).

AMA Past-President J. Edward Hill, MD, has recently stated that:

" The Surgeon General's call to action on underage drinking clearly identifies the need to intervene in an epidemic of abuse that is of great concern to the American Medical Association (AMA). While use of tobacco and illicit drugs among young people has declined, underage drinking rates remain high. Studies show that a substantial number of children begin drinking before the age of 12.

The AMA knows too well the profound health and behavioral risks associated with underage drinking. An AMA review of two decades of comprehensive research revealed the extent of harm that underage drinking can have on the developing brains of teens. The long-term damage includes the following ...

  • Adolescent drinkers scored worse than non-users on vocabulary, general information, memory and memory retrieval.
  • Verbal and nonverbal information recall was most heavily affected, with a 10% performance decrease among adolescent alcohol users.
  • Significant neuropsychological deficits exist in early to middle adolescents (ages 15 and 16) with histories of extensive alcohol use.
  • Adolescent drinkers perform worse in school, are more likely to fall behind and have an increased risk of social problems, depression, suicidal thoughts and violence.
  • Alcohol affects the sleep cycle, resulting in impaired learning and memory, as well as disrupted release of hormones necessary for growth and maturation.
  • Alcohol use increases risk of stroke among young drinkers.

Underage drinking is everyone's problem and requires a comprehensive prescription to address the health and societal costs. More than 10 million children under the age of 21 consume alcohol, with more than 5 million classified as binge drinkers. We need aggressive policies at the community, state and national levels to curb underage drinking. Among the proven strategies endorsed by the AMA:

  • Minimize adolescents exposure to alcohol promotions, advertising, and marketing.
  • Raise excise taxes on alcoholic beverages.
  • Register kegs to track when alcohol is provided to minors.
  • Stiffen penalties for parents and other adults who purchase alcohol for underage youth.
  • Create a sustained counter-marketing campaign that broadly reaches youth with more realistic messages about drinking and its consequences.
  • Increase law enforcement measures and enforcement.
  • Target youth to combat alcohol abuse in a culturally competent and effective manner.

_ Each day, many young Americans start down the path to having their health damaged by alcohol, even though it is illegal in every state to sell alcohol to underage customers. The Surgeon General's call to action effectively emphasizes the need for an overall approach to prevent underage drinking in America."

J. Edward Hill, MD - AMA Past-President

 

Source: American Medical Association (AMA).

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