Doctors Urged to Screen Youngsters for Alcohol Use

MADISON — Children as young as middle-schoolers should be screened on their use of alcohol, according to Dr. Patricia Kokotailo, director of adolescent medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

Kokotailo is the lead author of a policy statement released recently by the Committee on Substance Abuse for the American Academy of Pediatrics. The policy recommends that doctors screen all adolescents for alcohol use.


“This policy statement provides better evidence about how alcohol affects the brains of young people and why it is important to screen children,” says Kokotailo.

New evidence on the impact of alcohol on the developing brain is adding urgency to the recommendation, says Kokotailo.

“A remarkable amount of brain development is still occurring for young people through their 20s,” she says. “The parts of the maturing brain most impacted by drinking are essential for developing organizational skills, emotional regulation, abstract thinking, and impulse control.”

The policy statement also cites research that concludes the younger people are when they start drinking, the more likely they are to have significant problems in their lifetimes, including abuse and addiction.

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