AAP 2011: The Impact of Alcohol on Adolescents

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"The biggest issue is that alcohol and drug use are the leading causes of death in 15-24-year-olds in the US," said Dr. Patricia Kokotailo who talked about "Prescription Drugs and New Drugs of Abuse: Continuing Issues for Adolescents."

“If we can decrease the number of deaths due to underage drinking, it will be a good thing.”

- Patricia Kokotailo, MD, MPH, FAAP

“The biggest issue is that alcohol and drug use are the leading causes of death in 15-24 year olds in the US,” said Patricia Kokotailo, MD, MPH, FAAP, presenter of “Prescription Drugs and New Drugs of Abuse: Continuing Issues for Adolescents” at AAP 2011. That’s definitely an attention grabber if I’ve ever seen one! Between 1997-2007 alcohol and drug use deaths were tied to homicide, suicide, and unintentional because generally alcohol and drug use were part of the problem. Additionally, there are 5,000 deaths each year due to underage drinking.

Monitoring the Futures Study

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Dr. Kokotailo gave a brief overview of some of the results that have been found through the Monitoring the Futures Study which started in 1975 by evaluating the behaviors of high school seniors; now it includes high school sophomores and 8 graders; there currently are 45,000 high school students who attend private and public high school involved with this study.

The study evaluated a number of alcohol and drug use behaviors; one was binge drinking. Binge drinking was defined as a person who has five or more drink in a row within the last two week. The study found that 25% of high school seniors had been involved with binge drinking in the past. In fact, the study recommends that females should be considered binge drinkers at a lower level—three or more drinks—based purely on weight.

Caffeinated alcoholic energy drinks

Dr. Kokotailo discussed the dangers of drinking caffeinated alcoholic energy drinks. A couple of years ago, the FDA sent a warning letter to the manufacturer of the drink, Four, saying how caffeine is an unsafe food additive in alcohol. To abide by the FDA’s warning, alcoholic energy drinks were reintroduced without caffeine. Kokotailo said that many people think that these drinks contain the same amount of alcohol as beer however, this is not the case. In fact, a 23.5oz can has at least 12% alcohol compared to a 12oz can of beer which has an average of 4-5% alcohol. She also explained that when caffeine and alcohol are mixed, there is what’s called a “wide awake” drunk feeling; feel more awake and feel not as drunk, which masks the depressive effects of alcohol.

However, thanks (unfortunately) to the increase in drug usage, alcohol use is in decline; not necessarily a good thing.

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