Alcohol abuse high in teenagers

By Solenn Poullenec U-WIRE

BOSTON – Massachusetts ranks first in the nation in alcohol and drug abuse among young people, Department of Public Health officials reported yesterday during a joint committee hearing at the State House.

Reports have also shown the commonwealth ranks in the top percentile of 12- to 17-year-olds and 18- to 25-year-olds with reported alcohol, marijuana and other illicit drug use, said DPH Assistant Commissioner Michael Botticelli.

Though the number of middle and high school students who drink alcohol has lowered – from about 25 percent to 22 percent between 2003 and 2005 – he said underage drinking still remains a major concern, and drug-related deaths increased by 22 in the same time period.

He also noted alcohol-related issues continue to be the top reason patients are admitted into DPH programs, and he suggested implementing screening programs to identify and refer people who suffer from alcohol addiction to the appropriate support services.

He also called for the expansion of community and school-based prevention programs.

“For a long time, we assumed that drinking was a rite of passage for our kids,” Botticelli said.

Lt. Gov. Tim Murray told members of the Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse his office supports such programs and the committee’s treatment of substance abuse as a mental health issue.

“Substance abuse and mental health are connected,” Murray said.