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Children's Health

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Fourth of July Doubles ER Visits by Underage Drinkers

Study Finds That Underage Drinking-Related ER Visits Increase Nearly 90% Over Holiday Weekend
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

July 2, 2010 -- Visits to emergency rooms by underage drinkers could nearly double over the Fourth of July holiday weekend compared to an average July day, a federal report says.

A study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMHSA, says daily underage drinking-related visits to hospital emergency rooms are nearly 90% higher during a three-day Fourth of July weekend than on an average day in July.

The report estimates that 502 visits to ERs involving underage drinkers were made on an average July day in 2008.

Over the three-day Fourth of July holiday weekend that year, the number of daily emergency room visits by underage people involving alcohol use jumped to 938, an 87% increase, according to SAMHSA’s Office of Applied Studies July 2010 OAS Data Spotlight.

“Underage drinking is not a harmless rite of passage,” SAMHSA administrator Pamela S. Hyde says in a news release. “Parents are a leading influence in their children’s decision to avoid alcohol. To help parents make the tough job of raising children a little easier, SAMHSA provides an online action plan to help parents talk with their children about expectations involving alcohol use.”

The study is based on SAMHSA’s 2008 Drug Alert Warning Network, called DAWN.

Information and materials on how to help prevent underage drinking are available at

SAMHSA says on the web site that talking to young people early can make a difference in the decisions they make.

“Children become curious and some try drinking as early as 9 years old,” SAMHSA says on the site. Before age 9, children view drinking negatively, but between 9 and 13, start to view it more positively, SAMHSA says.

The site says children who begin drinking before age 15 are seven times more likely to abuse alcohol or to have problems with alcohol as adults.

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