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Each year alcohol is a conspirator in thousands of drownings, suicides,
violent injuries, deaths, and injuries from fires. Seventy times a day
once every 23 minutes
a life is taken somewhere on our streets and highways
because driving skills and judgment were impaired by alcohol and drugs.
annual rate of 25,000 Americans killed by alcohol-related traffic accidents
not to mention the 700,000 injuries
far exceeds all but the largest flu
epidemics of the past 30 years.
While the medical profession uses all of its genius and experience to lengthen
It should not surprise us, then, that Americans between the ages of 16 and 24
have a higher death rate than 20 years ago, the only age group in the United
States whose death rate has climbed rather than fallen in the last decade.
The death rate of our young Americans is higher than their counterparts in such countries as Sweden, Great Britain, Japan, and Wales. Contributing to
this tragic fact is the violence we see in homicides, suicides, and various
But motor vehicle accidents are still the leading
other types of accidents.
killers of our young people
and a major cause for all of these tragedies is
the curse of alcohol abuse.
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:
Thank you for this opportunity to provide for the record my views and concerns
about the problems associated with alcohol consumption by this Nation's youth
and the activities my Department is undertaking to address them.
Today, 10 million adult Americans suffer from alcoholism and alcohol-related
In addition, an estimated 3.3 million teenagers between the ages
of 14 and 17 are experiencing problems with the use of alcohol. Eight out of
10 high school seniors have tried alcohol more than once and 31 percent of
high school students are considered to be alcohol mi susers
that is, they're
drunk at least six times a year.
Surveys show the average age at which young people begin drinking is 13, and
that average age has been getting lower.
About one in every four tenth-to
twelfth graders drinks at least once a week.
Fourteen percent of the
youngsters in the peak of their formative years drink heavily once a week.
Six percent of the twelfth graders in America drink daily.
More senior high
school students today use alcohol than any other psychoactive drug, with those
who do often combining alcohol use with other drugs
with potentially deadly
Alcohol abuse and consumption is believed to be even higher
among the high school students who drop out and are therefore not included in
I recall that in the 1950s, there was an aroused public consensus that a
national energency existed when 200 young Americans lost their lives because
At the height of the polio epidemic in 1952, 3,000 Americans
succumbed to that disease, and we rushed
to develop a vaccine. That vaccine
all American students now receive it at a very early age
has wiped polio
off our map.
Polio has become almost as rare as bubonic plague in the United
Today we face an epidemic in our society far harder to fight than polio.
epidemic is teen age alcohol abuse.
Unfortunately, no doctor or scientist can
discover and produce a vaccine which will imunize young people from driving
after they drink.
We can't manufacture a pill
which could campel young people to stay sober. There's no inoculation
which can immunize young Americans and keep them sober when they drive after
a Friday or Saturday night party.
The statistics I've referred to above are devastating.
Each number, each
statistic, represents a young American who left us too soon, their promise
But those statistics are not as stark as the tragedies
because no faceless, nameless statistic
is as real as the impact of each single death and the
devastation it brings to relatives and friends.
I can assure you that this tragic situation has not gone unnoticed in the
Department of Health and Human Services.
For example, in 1979 the first
Surgeon General's Report, Healthy People was published establishing broad
goals to improve the health of the Nation by 1990 which included reducing
deaths among those age 15-24. This report noted that motor vehicle accidents
were the #1 cause of mortality for this age
accounting for 37% of all
In follow-up to that report, Promoting Health/Preventing Disease was issued
setting specific object ives in 15 priority areas to realize these national
The adverse consequences of misuse of alcohol and drugs is one of the
fifteen priority areas which we are actively seeking to address. Specific
objectives have been developed to reduce the risk factors associated with
alcohol consumption by youth and to reduce alcohol-related motor fatalities.
I have appended the section of this report dealing with misuse of alcohol and
Our specific object ives may be found in Section 3 of the appendix.
We are fully aware that implementing these object ives will require cooperation
involving participants from many sectors and backgrounds on the local, State
and national levels. Agencies within my Department, including the National
Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the National Institute on Drug
Abuse, and the Center for Disease Control, among others, are involved in
addressing the 1990 goals.
The Department of Health and Human Services is actively involved in efforts of
"marketing the message" about the high price we pay for alcohol abuse and
We are discussing possibilities of joint efforts with the National
Transportation Safety Board; and
We are vigorously joining forces within the Department of Health and
Human Services to achieve our prevention objectives for the future.
In addition to these activities, there is currently ongoing an activity of
which I am particularly proud
the Teenage Alcohol Abuse Initiative.
As part of that initiative, late last year HHS conducted a series of ten
conferences on prevention and early intervention for teachers, principals,
parents, PTAs and alcohol and drug counselors.
Over 1,100 people attended.