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A Journal on Pediatrics, Neonatology, Adolescent Medicine,
Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

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Minerva Pediatrica 2004 June;56(3):291-310

language: English

Adolescent alcohol use and injury. A summary and critical review of the literature

Sindelar H. A., Barnett N. P., Spirito A.


Background. Survey research indicates that alcohol use and misuse by adolescents is prevalent worldwide and has been associated with multiple negative health, social, and economic consequences. Physical injury is one of the negative consequences of alcohol use that appears to be on the rise among adolescents.
Methods. A retrospective review was conducted of published data currently available regarding alcohol use and injury among adolescents. Studies were reviewed if 1) the sample included adolescents between the ages of 13 and 19 years, 2) the study site was a medical setting, and 3) data were collected regarding alcohol ingestion.
Results. Data indicate that rates of adolescent alcohol use range from 5% among general emergency department (ED) admissions to nearly 50% among trauma admissions. Alcohol-positive adolescents are more likely than alcohol-negative adolescents to be injured, have a prior history of injury, require trauma service care, and have injury complications. One-third to one-half of alcohol-positive adolescents are referred for or receive intervention related to their alcohol use.
Conclusions. Alcohol use by adolescents is associated with increases in severity of injury and cost of medical treatment. Screening of adolescent trauma unit admissions for alcohol use might be justified based on the literature. Optimal methods of screening, identification, and brief intervention for alcohol abusing adolescents within the medical setting are discussed.

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