ER Visits Increase Over Independence Holiday as Teens Consume Alcohol

In the United States, the 4th of July is a time for celebration. For those who work in healthcare, it is a time to prepare for the arrival of underage drinkers into the emergency room. According to research by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, ER visits almost double over this annual holiday.

Those in the role of providing warnings about underage drinking tend to lay it on thick around prom and graduation, but could be missing the mark when it comes to Independence Day celebrations. A new report shows that ER visits related to alcohol for those under 21 nearly double over the holiday weekend.

Daily underage-drinking visits to the ER throughout the nation increased a staggering 87 percent over the holiday weekend in 2008. The 4th of July fell on a Friday that year, creating a three-day weekend. The agency has yet to measure ER traffic among the same age group during years when the holiday has fallen during the week.

One ER physician has seen the rapid increase in the number of intoxicated minors when the holiday creates a three-day weekend. Most teens – especially younger teens – cannot handle alcohol very well and they end up being injured. While this physician did not have solid figures, he believes his facility sees more on the Independence Day holiday than during prom.

Part of the problem could be the perception of parents. Too many believe that drinking is a rite of passage, when they are actually contributing to the growing problem. Parents fail to see the long-term consequences, especially if they were a young drinker in their own time.