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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

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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

national surveys.


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

of polio.

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

the don't-drink-and-drive


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

no matter

hou grotesque

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

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We are discussing possibilities of joint efforts with the National

Transportation Safety Board; and

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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.

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