Underage Drinking Emergency Room Visits Rise Over Holiday

Report reveals that emergency room visits up 263 percent on New Year's Day in 2009

FRIDAY, Dec. 31 (HealthDay News) -- Hospital emergency department visits for underage drinking increased 263 percent on New Year's Day in 2009 as compared with emergency department visits on an average day during that year, according to a new Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) report published Dec. 30.

The report is based on SAMHSA's 2009 Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) report. DAWN is a public health surveillance system that monitors drug-related hospital emergency department visits reported throughout the United States. According to the report, there was an estimated 1,980 emergency department visits involving underage drinking on New Year's Day 2009, as compared with 546 emergency department visits on an average day that year, which is a 263 percent increase.

Hospital emergency department visits for underage drinking on New Year's Day even exceeded other national holiday visit rates, which are typically higher than average daily rates, with New Year's Day visit rates 191 percent higher than Memorial Day rates and 110 percent higher than Fourth of July rates.

"This very troubling finding is in line with what we already know about the increase in alcohol-related problems during the winter holidays," Kenneth R. Warren, Ph.D., acting director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, part of the National Institutes of Health, said in a statement. "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. And 40 percent of traffic fatalities during these holidays involve a driver who is alcohol-impaired, compared to 28 percent for the rest of December."

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