Although the minimum legal drinking age is 21 years, alcohol use by youth continues to be a major problem in the United States. Alcohol consumption can interfere with adolescent brain development, and use of alcohol early in life is associated with future alcohol-related problems.

The new policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), "Alcohol Use by Youth and Adolescents: A Pediatric Concern," published in the May issue of Pediatrics (published online April 12), describes risk factors that contribute to youth alcohol use, including having friends who use alcohol, tobacco, or other substances; patterns of use in communities in which alcohol and other drugs are less expensive and easily attainable; and exposure to alcohol advertising. Specific recommendations on management tools and treatment programs will be available in a forthcoming statement from the AAP on substance use screening, intervention, and referral for treatment.

The authors recommend additional research into the prevention, screening and identification, brief intervention and management and treatment of alcohol and other substance use by adolescents continues to be needed to improve evidence-based practices.

American Academy of Pediatrics