Underage drinking is a growing problem, and a new study suggests it's often worse over the Memorial Day weekend.
The study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reveals that teens' alcohol-related trips to hospital emergency rooms are 11 percent higher during the Memorial Day weekend than they are on an average day.
The latest Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) report estimates that on an average day, there are 519 hospital emergency department visits involving underage alcohol use. For the three day Memorial Day weekend, however, the number of daily hospital emergency department visits jumps to 577.
The study also shows that the daily level of hospital emergency department visits involving those under age 21 that used alcohol combined with other drugs is 27 percent higher during this holiday weekend than the level on an average day (199 visits versus 156 visits).
"Underage drinking poses an enormous public health risk -- approximately 5,000 people die each year from alcohol-related injuries connected to underage drinking," said SAMHSA Administrator, Pamela S. Hyde, J.D. "Moreover, studies have shown that children who begin drinking before age 15 are six times more likely to develop alcohol problems than people who start drinking after they reach age 21."
Hyde says the study highlights the need for parents, families and communities to promote prevention messages and efforts designed to help young people enjoy themselves without engaging in underage drinking or drug use.
The study was developed as part of the agency's strategic initiative on data, outcomes, and quality -- an effort to inform policy makers and service providers on the nature and scope of behavioral health issues. It is based on the 2008 DAWN report. DAWN is a public health surveillance system that monitors drug-related hospital emergency department visits reported throughout the nation.