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Underage Drinking Soars in U.S.

Rates highest in Vermont and North Dakota, report finds

THURSDAY, March 25 (HealthDay News) -- More than one-quarter (27.6 percent) of American youth aged 12 to 20 said that they drank alcohol in the past month, according to a study released Thursday by the federal government.

The analysis of 2006-2008 data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health also found that underage past-month drinking rates were as high as 40 percent in some states, including North Dakota and Vermont. One of the lowest rates was in Utah (13.7 percent).

About 8.6 percent of underage past-month drinkers said they purchased their own alcohol the last time they drank. The rates were lowest in Alaska (3.1 percent) and New Mexico (3.7 percent) and highest in Louisiana and the District of Columbia (both at 18.8 percent).

In conjunction with the release of the study and Alcohol Awareness Month in April, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced the launch of a new series of public service announcements to get parents to talk to their children about underage drinking.

Alcohol is the most widely used substance of abuse among American youth and contributes to the three leading causes of death among 12- to 20-year-olds -- unintentional injury, murder and suicide. People who start drinking before age 15 are six times more likely to have alcohol problems than those who start drinking at age 21 or older, according to research.

"Prevention is the number one priority of SAMHSA, and reducing underage drinking is a key part of that. Underage drinking is a national crisis putting the lives of millions of Americans at risk as well as the futures of many of our youth," agency administrator Pamela S. Hyde said in a news release.

The new television, radio, magazine and Internet public service announcements target parents of children aged 11 to 15, especially parents of middle-school children who haven't started drinking. The ads encourage parents to talk with their children early and often and to involve others, including other family members and peers.

The campaign offers tips for parents on how to talk with their children about alcohol, along with materials that outline the short- and long-term consequences of underage drinking.

More information

Here's where you can find SAMHSA information on underage drinking.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, news release, March 25, 2010

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