To the editor:
Teenager Kendra Schwartz recently wrote in the “Double Take” column: “Although I don’t personally condone alcohol or drug use, weekend drinking is common among my peers and rarely has long-term harmful effects.”
I offer kudos to Ms. Schwartz for not condoning unhealthy behaviors in her peer group and for her usually provocative and insightful commentary. However, her assertion that such behavior “rarely has long-term harmful effects” is not supported by epidemiology findings cited in a large number of publications and falls far short of her typical thoughtful excellence.
Regarding the harm due to underage consumption of alcohol, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Alcohol and Public Health fact sheet entitled “Underage Drinking” lists 11 published studies, many from rigorous, peer-reviewed medical publications such as Pediatrics, which provides results and conclusions from mortality reporting and other reliable sources. Among the CDC’s summary of consequences of underage drinking are that youth who drink alcohol are more likely to experience school problems, social problems, legal problems, physical problems, high-risk sexual activity and unintentional injuries from alcohol-related auto collisions and other accidents such as burns, falls, or drowning. This fact sheet (with citations) can be reviewed at http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/underage-drinking.htm.
Underage alcohol use all too frequently has long-term harmful effects, and copious research is readily available to rebut Ms. Schwartz’s contradictory opinion. Nonetheless, I predict a great future for her as an adult based on her already highly developed critical thinking and writing skills. I urge her, her coauthor, and her editors to do better fact checking of assertions in the future.