The rate of underage drinking by high school students has decreased in New Hampshire, as well as the number of outlets selling alcohol to minors, according to a report by a nonprofit advocacy group.
However, alcohol remains the No. 1 youth drug problem in New Hampshire, with almost one in five high school students taking their first drink of alcohol before the age of 13, according to the report by New Futures. And it is strongly linked to three of the top five causes of death among 15-to-24-year-olds in New Hampshire: unintentional injury, suicide and homicide.
“Underage drinking costs the state of New Hampshire $180 million each year, taking into account medical care, work loss, crime and accidents,” said John Bunker, executive director of New Futures. The group focuses on prevention and treatment of underage alcohol abuse.
The report said that collective efforts to address underage drinking — by increasing awareness of the scope and harm of alcohol and other drug problems, and enacting public policies at the state and local levels — have made a difference.
“It is critical that we continue to address our resources on raising the level of awareness, public policy interventions and broad community efforts,” said Mary Ann Cooney, director of the state Health and Human Service Department’s division of public health services.
Based on discussions with state leaders, the report identified five issues as critically important in New Hampshire’s future prevention and treatment efforts:
Paying for treatment services; current New Hampshire law doesn’t require insurers to provide coverage for alcohol and other drug use disorders that is equivalent to coverage for other chronic, relapsing medical conditions.
Work force development; New Hampshire has a shortage of adequately trained personnel to provide services for substance abuse and mental health.
Adoption of evidence-based practices — treatment based on documented, scientific evidence.
_ Treatment services in the justice system, which can have a significant impact upon future drug use, criminal behavior and social functioning.
Advocacy and public policy — individuals and organizations working together to impact alcohol and other drug policies.
On the Net:
New Futures: www.new-futures.org
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