On July 3 and 4, drinking sends a daily average of nearly 1,000 youth under 21 — two-thirds of them male — to the ER for problems related to alcohol use, according to a report by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
“When it’s a holiday weekend, what we are finding now is that kids, especially young men, are ending up at the emergency room because of alcohol-related problems at almost double as what they would on any other day during July,” said Peter Delany, director of SAMHSA’s Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality.
Of those seen in emergency rooms over the July 4 holiday in 2009, 622 were boys and 304 were girls, according to the report. Although the number of emergency room visits for girls held steady throughout July, the emergency room visits by boys doubled during the July 4th weekend.
Delany said drinking-related injuries are from fights, car accidents and other mishaps. When kids drink, “they are at greater risk for all those activities that can get you hurt,” he explained.
The same problem is seen on other holiday weekends, especially New Year’s, Delany added.
“Holidays are trigger points. We as a society have really attached alcohol to certain holidays,” he said. “July 4th is a big one. New Year’s is a big one.”
The data for the study is culled from SAMHSA’s 2009 Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) report, a system that monitors drug-related hospital emergency department visits around the country.
“This is a really great opportunity to talk to your kids about what your expectations are for them — when they are going to be involved in parties or going places — about their drinking behavior,” Delany said.
It is also a good time for communities to consider what can be done to make the environment safe for kids, he added.
Commenting on the report, Dr. Tamara Kuittinen, director of medical education in the emergency medicine department at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said that “it’s not surprising. It’s a universal experience at festivals — especially in summer, there is a lot of drinking. So it is not surprising there is a lot of underage drinking.”
Kuittinen noted that binge drinking is becoming a big problem among young adults and underage drinkers. “The problem is the risk of violence and sexual assault, which happens more commonly as a result of binge drinking on holidays,” she said.
“No one should be drinking under age,” Kuittinen stated. “But it’s hard when there is peer pressure,” she added.