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Underage drinking soars at New Year's

By the CNN Wire Staff
The study says "mixed messages from parents may fuel surges in underage drinking."
The study says "mixed messages from parents may fuel surges in underage drinking."
  • Study estimates 1,980 emergency room visits occurred on New Year's Day 2009
  • That compares with 546 such visits on an average day
  • Parents, community leaders urged to pay attention
  • Alcohol
  • New Year's

(CNN) -- The number of minors treated in hospital emergency rooms for drinking on New Year's Day 2009 was nearly four times the average daily figure, according to a federal study.

The study, published this week in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, was based on data from the Drug Abuse Warning Network, which estimated that 1,980 emergency room visits on New Year's Day 2009 involved underage drinking, versus 546 such visits on an average day.

"This stunning increase in underage drinking-related emergency room visits on New Year's Day should be a wake-up call to parents, community leaders and all caring adults about the potential risks our young people face for alcohol-related accidents, injuries and death during this time of year," Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration chief Pamela S. Hyde said in a statement about the agency's study.

"Parents, clergy, coaches, teachers and other role models must do everything they can to positively influence young people -- including talking with them early and often about the many health dangers underage drinking poses to their physical and emotional health and well being."

The findings translate into an increase in sobering statistics, said Kenneth R. Warren, acting director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

"For example, during Christmas and New Year's, two to three times more people die in alcohol-related crashes than during comparable periods the rest of the year," he said. "And 40% of traffic fatalities during these holidays involve a driver who is alcohol-impaired, compared to 28% for the rest of December."

The New Year's Day levels outstripped those of other holidays. For example, Memorial Day emergency room visits for drinking by minors were 676; the Fourth of July level was 942.

"Whereas all underage alcohol consumption is of concern, consumption that leads to ER visits on New Year's Day should be of particular concern to parents and young people because such consumption may increase other risky behaviors," it said.

"Greater access to alcohol, less parental oversight and mixed messages from parents may fuel surges in underage drinking, which can result in visits to hospital emergency departments because of overconsumption or alcohol-involved accidents or injuries. The New Year's holiday may be particularly risky because underage individuals may drink more than during most other times of the year, including other holidays."