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Hospital ER visits related to underage drinking, drug use jump sharply on Memorial Day weekends

May 28, 2010 |  5:40 pm

Visits to hospital emergency rooms triggered by underage drinking rise on Memorial Day weekends, while visits related to both underage alcohol and drug abuse rise even more, according to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The agency attributed the increase to partying to celebrate the begining of summer.

On an average day in 2008, the most recent year for which data is available, the agency said, there were typically about 519 hospital ER visits linked to underage drinking nationwide.  On the three days of Memorial Day weekend, the daily average rose to 577. Similarly, the average daily number of visits for alcohol and drug use combined was 156, but on Memorial Day weekend the number rose to 199 visits. The figures are based on data from the 2008 Drug Abuse Warning Network report, which monitors drug-related ER visits nationwide.

"Underage drinking poses an enormous public health risk -- approximately 5,000 people die each year from alcohol-related injuries connected to underaged drinking," SAMHSA administrator Pamela S. Hyde said in a statement. "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 age 21."

Information on how to help prevent underage drinking is available here.

-- Thomas H. Maugh II.