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January

Tackling children's alcohol related emergency visits

21 January 2011

A major new research programme to tackle children’s alcohol related emergency department (ED) attendances, funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), has been awarded to a consortium of research centres led by the Institute of Psychiatry (IoP), King’s College London.

The average amount of alcohol consumed by 11-15 year olds in England doubled in the last 13 years to 2007, with considerable health harm. Many adolescents present to hospital emergency departments (EDs) having experienced alcohol related harm. However, effective public health strategies to provide early interventions to reduce alcohol-related harm in adolescents in the UK are hampered by a lack of research evidence.

A new research programme, ‘Developing and evaluating interventions for adolescent alcohol use disorders presenting through emergency departments’, aims to develop and evaluate interventions for adolescents presenting with alcohol related attendances at EDs. It will provide estimates of the level of alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems in adolescents attending ED. It will also develop, implement and evaluate screening and alcohol interventions for adolescents in the ED setting.

Screening and intervention for alcohol problems in adolescents in ED has been evaluated mostly in North America but the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of these approaches in the UK NHS is unknown. Existing research does not take sufficient account of the impact of alcohol consumption at different developmental stages in adolescence, and there is insufficient understanding of the usefulness of screening approaches in the under 18 years age group.

Colin Drummond, Professor of Addiction Psychiatry at the IoP, said: “Alcohol misuse has increased dramatically in all age groups in the UK in the last decade, including a sharp increase in alcohol related hospital attendances and admissions. The amount of alcohol that children and young people drink has doubled in that period, and yet there is a lack of good evidence on the best ways for the NHS to help this group. We welcome the NIHR’s support for this research which will have important implications for public health approaches to tackle excessive drinking in the UK’s under 18s.”

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