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Psychologists Discuss Underage Drinking Research on Capitol Hill

We have learned a tremendous amount about alcohol use across the lifespan, and today we’ll hear a summary of research as it pertains to one critical age group--our children.

By Geoff Mumford

On November 15, Science Government Relations staff, working in conjunction with the Addiction, Treatment and Recovery (ATR) Caucus in the House of Representatives, held the first educational briefing sponsored by the Friends of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) coalition. Steve Breckler, APA’s Executive Director for Science, provided introductory remarks and noted the timeliness of the topic of underage drinking.

Breckler said, “We have learned a tremendous amount about alcohol use across the lifespan, and today we’ll hear a summary of research as it pertains to one critical age group--our children. Importantly, we’ll not only hear about the nature and extent of the problem, but also about promising interventions.”

Further, he noted, “The state of that research is mature and compelling enough that the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General recently released “A Call to Action to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking.” NIAAA provided the scientific information for the Call to Action, which represents an important collaboration between NIAAA and the highest levels of the U.S. Public Health Service. And because this is the first time such a “Call to Action” has been issued on that topic, yesterday we delivered a copy of the report to every Member of the House and Senate. So I hope that those of you who work up here on Capitol Hill and staff substance abuse issues for your Members will take time to read it.”

NIAAA Director Ting-Kai Li then provided an overview of the lifespan approach NIAAA has developed to anchor its strategic planning and inform its Underage Drinking Research Initiative. APA Fellow Mark Goldman, Distinguished Research Professor and Director, Alcohol and Substance Use Research Institute, Department of Psychology, University of South Florida, followed describing the extent and nature of underage drinking and explained how it can be understood within a developmental framework. APA Fellow Sandra Brown, Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego, then discussed her research on intervening with underage drinkers in various settings. And finally, Mimi Fleury, founder of Community of Concern, shared her thoughts on how to take action as a parent, in schools, and at the community level.

For more information about the Friends of NIAAA, contact Anne Bettesworth.