Based on Youth Risk Behavior Studies (YRBSS) conducted during the past three decades, approximately 81.6% of teenagers enrolled in 9th to 12th grade, surveyed in 1991, responded that they had tried at least one alcoholic beverage in their lifetime (“Trends,”2013). That same year within this group, approximately 50.8 % admitted to having at least one alcoholic beverage during the thirty-day period leading up to the time of the survey. While these numbers appear to have declined according to more recent statistics (2013), 66.2% having tried a drink at least once and 34.9% admitting to at least one drink thirty days prior to the survey, clearly adolescent drinking continues to remain a concern for teenage patients.
A separate survey, reported by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) states that 80% of 10th graders, who had visited a doctor in the last year, had not been asked about drinking (“Doctors Often,” n.d.). Furthermore, the article states that only about 40% of these students received advice about the risks involved with alcohol consumption. This research reinforces the need for doctors, who are involved with the care of adolescents, to make a concerted effort to provide necessary information and treatment.
While the above statistics are estimates, they serve to underline the need for physicians to assess the risks. It is my belief that pediatricians and health care providers need to access complete patient/family histories and deal directly with alcohol and drug-related risk factors. Doctors need to provide appropriate intervention when alcohol (or drugs use) is apparent during screening (“Alcohol Use,” 2013). They need to provide access to local resources, discuss the hazards of alcohol and substance abuse with their patients and encourage guardians to be supportive, healthy role models.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all teenaged patients be screened for potential substance abuse and that counseling be provided during routine medical care (Underwood, 2010). As a specialist working with this age group, I would like to use a screening device such as “CRAFFT” measurement designed by DR. John R. Knight (Underwood, 2010). CRAFFT was designed specifically for teenagers; the instrument takes minutes to administer and is easy to score.
Supporting patients requires addressing patient health issues during all phases of treatment. As a physician working with patients in this age group, I need to be knowledgeable about all adolescent health issues and remain up-to-date on current research, resources, and relevant information.
American Academy of Pediatrics. (2013). Alcohol Use by Youth and Adolescents: A Pediatric Concern. Retrieved from the American Academy of Pediatrics website: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/125/5/1078.full
National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (n.d.). Doctors Often Don’t Ask Teen Patients About Drinking. Retrieved from the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence website: https://ncadd.org/in-the-news/618-doctors-often-dont-ask-teen-patients-about-drinking
National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention (NCHHSTP), Division of Adolescent and School Health. (2013) Trends in the Prevalence of Alcohol Use National YRBS: 1991—2013. PDF retrieved from the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention (NCHHSTP), Division of Adolescent and School Health (DASH) website: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/pdf/trends/us_alcohol_trend_yrbs.pdf
Underwood, T. (2012). Brief Screening During Doctor Visit Can Dramatically Reduce Teenage Drinking. Boston, MA Boston Children’s Hospital Thriving. Retrieved online from http://thriving.childrenshospital.org/brief-screening-during-doctor-visit-can-dramatically-reduce-teenage-drinking/