By LINDSEY TANNER, AP Medical Writer
CHICAGO (AP) - People who began drinking while
underage are up to three times more likely to get hurt
in car crashes and other alcohol-related accidents than
those who started at 21 or older, a study found.
The national survey of 42,862 adults offers another
sobering argument against underage drinking.
``Parents don't appreciate that alcohol is the No. 1
drug of abuse of kids,'' said Dr. Mary Dufour, deputy
director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and
Alcoholism. ``They say, `Well, he's only drinking.' This
is yet another reason why they need to pay attention and
why kids need to pay attention.''
The findings appear in Wednesday's Journal of the
American Medical Association.
Boston University researcher Ralph Hingson and
colleagues examined data from a 1992 NIAAA survey of
randomly selected adults age 44 on average. About half
said they had started drinking before age 21.
Accidental alcohol-related injuries were more common
in youth as well as in adulthood among people who
started drinking before age 21. The accidents included
car crashes, burns and serious cuts.
The researchers theorized that people who start
drinking at young ages ``may be less fearful of injury
and situations that pose risk of injury.'' They may even
derive pleasure from taking such risks, the authors
Car accidents and other unintentional injuries are
the leading cause of death for adolescents and young
Others studies have shown that underage drinkers are
more likely to become alcoholics.
Dr. Henry Kranzler, a psychiatry professor at the
University of Connecticut, said the findings fall in
line with previous research suggesting that early-onset
alcoholism differs from the disease in older people and
is associated with more psychiatric, legal and
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