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Vol. LIX, No. 7
April 6, 2007
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Surgeon General Issues ‘Call to Action’ on Underage Drinking

Present at the recent Call to Action conference were (from l) NIAAA director Dr. Ting-Kai Li; acting surgeon general Dr. Kenneth P. Moritsugu; author Koren Zailckas; Mary Easley, first lady of North Carolina; Michele Ridge, former first lady of Pennsylvania; and SAMSHA administrator Dr. Terry Cline.
Present at the recent Call to Action conference were (from l) NIAAA director Dr. Ting-Kai Li; acting surgeon general Dr. Kenneth P. Moritsugu; author Koren Zailckas; Mary Easley, first lady of North Carolina; Michele Ridge, former first lady of Pennsylvania; and SAMSHA administrator Dr. Terry Cline.

Citing a confluence of findings from epidemiology, behavioral science, developmental research and basic science supported by multiple federal agencies, acting surgeon general Dr. Kenneth Moritsugu issued a Call to Action To Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking on Mar. 6. At a press conference, he cited the persistence of unacceptably high levels of harmful drinking by young people and said, “We can no longer ignore what alcohol is doing to our children.”

Highlighting the Call to Action’s science-based content, Moritsugu said, “Recent research shows that the brain continues to develop well beyond childhood—and throughout adolescence. This research raises concerns that underage drinking may affect short-term and long-term cognitive functioning and may change the brain in ways that can lead to future alcohol dependence.”

The report was developed in collaboration with the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Among its goals, the Call to Action seeks to engage parents, schools, communities, all levels of government, all social systems that interface with youth and youth themselves in a coordinated national effort to prevent and reduce underage drinking and its consequences. It also calls for additional research and for promoting an understanding of underage alcohol consumption in the context of human development and maturation—an approach that takes into account individual characteristics as well as environmental, ethnic, cultural and gender differences.

Participating with Moritsugu at a public briefing were NIAAA director Dr. Ting-Kai Li and SAMSHA administrator Dr. Terry Cline. They were joined by Mary Easley, first lady of North Carolina, and Michele Ridge, former first lady of Pennsylvania, who participated as representatives of the Leadership to Keep Children Alcohol Free, a coalition led by governors’ spouses to prevent alcohol use by children ages 9 to 15, and Koren Zailckas, author of Smashed: The Story of a Drunken Girlhood.

Li called underage drinking a “complex phenomenon” driven by environmental and biological factors. Data show that the highest prevalence of alcohol dependence—commonly called alcoholism—is in 18 to 20-year-olds. He said, “These findings underscore the need to understand how early alcohol use affects the wiring and function of the human brain and why it is so important to adopt a developmental perspective as we continue to assess the immediate and future effects of underage drinking.”

Moritsugu concluded, “The bottom line is that research provides more reasons than ever before for parents and other adults to be concerned about the effects of underage drinking on our nation’s children and to take steps to prevent and reduce underage drinking.”

A web site with the complete Call to Action is online at www.surgeongeneral.gov/topics/underagedrinking/. NIH Record Icon

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