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Pediatricians Could Help Curtail Teen Drinking

By February 6, 2013

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Pediatricians who take the time to ask their young patients about their drinking and follow up with advice to quit or cut down could significantly reduce harmful drinking levels. But many physicians fail to ask their school-aged patients about their alcohol use.

Even when alcohol consumption is discussed, some doctors still do not advise their patients about the risks of underage drinking.

A National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) study of more than 2,500 students in 10th grade found that many were never asked about their alcohol use during their last visit to the doctor, although 34% reported drinking in the past year and 26% admitted binge drinking.

Failure to Screen for Alcohol Abuse

The NIAAA study found that among the 80% of the 10th graders who had seen a physician in the past 12 months:

  • Only 54% were asked about drinking.
  • Only 40% were advised about the dangers of alcohol.
  • Of those who drank, only 23% were advised to cut back or quit.

Advice Given for Other Drugs

Students who were asked about their drinking were more likely to be advised about alcohol, the study found. But of the students who reported being drunk six or more times in the past month, and who were asked about their drinking, 30% were still not advised about the risks of alcohol and 67% were not advised to reduce or stop.

Of those students who said they received advise to cut back or quit drinking, only 25% received that advise from a doctor. Meanwhile, 36% of smokers, 27% of marijuana users and 43% of drug users were advised to quit by their doctor.

The researchers from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development believe screening and brief interventions by healthcare providers can produce significant reductions in harmful drinking levels.

Source: Hingson, RW, et al. "Physician Advice to Adolescents About Drinking and Other Health Behaviors." Pediatrics 2 Oct. 2012.

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