The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), part of the National Institutes of Health, announced it will convene the first meeting of the Steering Committee on Underage Drinking Research and Prevention on September 20, in Bethesda, Maryland. The new committee comprises leaders with broad and varied expertise in child and adolescent development, neuroscience, genetics, prevention research, public policy, communications, alcohol research, and other fields. Also joining the committee are Nancy Freudenthal, First Lady of Wyoming, and Kendel Ehrlich, First Lady of Maryland, who are members of the Leadership to Keep Children Alcohol Free, a unique public-private national coalition founded by NIAAA.

"Underage drinking is a complex and serious public health challenge," said NIAAA Director Ting-Kai Li, M.D. "In spite of an increased awareness and understanding of the problem, underage drinking rates have remained constant-and unacceptably high-for almost a decade. Clearly, more research remains. The collective capabilities of these distinguished members of the steering committee will help take our thinking to new levels as we continue to work towards science-based strategies in prevention and treatment to safeguard the health of young people."

Alcohol is the drug most used by young Americans. The risky behaviors often associated with underage drinking can have devastating and life-long consequences. Research has shown that 40 percent of those who start drinking before the age of 15 meet criteria for alcohol dependence (commonly known as alcoholism) at some point in their lives. A convergence of behavioral and biological research has underscored the vulnerability of children and young people to alcohol's adverse effects.

For more details about the steering committee and NIAAA research on underage drinking, visit www.niaaa.nih.gov.