For Immediate Release - April 03, 2008

PATRICK-MURRAY ADMINISTRATION RELEASES NEW DATA SHOWING DECLINE IN ADOLESCENT ALCOHOL USE AND ABUSE RATES

DPH to sponsor 49 town hall meetings across state to stress underage drinking prevention.

BOSTON -- The Patrick-Murray Administration today announced a decline in the number of young people drinking and abusing alcohol and highlighted new statistics showing that fewer young people are choosing to drink. The new stats come from preliminary results of the 2007 Department of Public Health (DPH) and Department of Education (DOE) Youth Health Survey.

The report found that the age young people first drank alcohol rose from 12-years old in 2004 to 13 years old in 2007. The survey also found adolescents who drank alcohol in the past month decreased substantially between 2004 and 2007 for both middle school students (22.8 percent to 10.8 percent) and high school students (54.7 percent to 43.6 percent).

The report also cited a decrease in the number of adolescents who said they had ever used alcohol, with middle school students showing a decrease from 51 percent to 23 percent and high school students reporting a decrease from 84 percent to 66 percent.

"While this is good news about alcohol use among adolescents, we know we have more work to do," said Lt. Governor Tim Murray. "The best way to protect young people from the dangers of alcohol abuse is to prevent the abuse and use of alcohol from ever happening in the first place."

In addition to releasing the new study results, Lt. Governor Murry also kicked-off of a major statewide effort to prevent underage drinking this spring.

With funding from U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, DPH will sponsor town hall meetings in 49 communities across the state. The meetings will bring together young people, parents and municipal leaders to highlight proven community strategies to combat underage drinking.

The town hall meetings will promote the "Start Talking Before They Start Drinking" campaign, which will highlight getting parents involved and holding retailers and communities accountable as part of an overall strategy to keep kids from using alcohol at an early age.

The Lt. Governor delivered the keynote address at the kickoff event held today at the Great Hall in the Massachusetts State House. The event showcased the work of many groups including Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

"Our goal is to send a wake-up call that underage drinking involves significant risk to young people," said DPH Commissioner John Auerbach. "We want to encourage parents to recognize the importance of initiating and continuing a dialogue with their children on this important public health issue."

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that individuals who began drinking before the age of 15 were four times more likely to report meeting the criteria for alcohol dependence at some point in their lives.

"Responding to the problem of underage drinking is daunting because alcohol is legal and readily available for adults, and because the entertainment industry continues to glamorize underage drinking," said Bureau of Substance Abuse Services Director Michael Botticelli. "As with most public health problems, it takes community-wide strategies like those that will be highlighting at these town hall meetings to make a real impact."

Research consistently demonstrates that the strongest approach to preventing underage drinking is a coordinated effort by parents, teachers, law enforcement and members of the community.

For more information on preventing adolescent substance abuse, please visit www.mass.gov/dph/bsas.

###

Follow us on Twitter – View our Photos – Watch our Videos