Health problems related to alcohol abuse are characterized by a heavy socio-economic impact with major consequences on health costs and national productivity both in industrialized and developing countries (Leon and McCambridge, 2006a; Morrison et al., 2006).
The observation that alcohol-related problems seem to disproportionately affect adolescents and young adults constitutes an additional reason for concern (Leon and McCambridge, 2006b; Bosetti et al., 2007).
Indeed, independently of gender and of region of the world, individuals in the age range 15–29 years consistently present the highest proportion of alcohol-attributable deaths (Larsson and Wolk, 2007).
In addition, a growing body of evidence suggests that the introduction to alcohol use in childhood followed by alcohol abuse in adolescence lead to an increased risk for high-impact diseases in adulthood such as cancer, liver cirrhosis, respiratory and cardiovascular disease, mental and behavioural disorders (Anderson et al., 1993; Byrne et al., 2004). Besides these long-term risks, alcohol abuse in childhood and adolescence is associated with an increased risk of developing acute and chronic liver diseases (Mathurin and Deltenre, 2009).
Binge drinking is the most common pattern of alcohol consumption among high-school youth (Mathurin and Deltenre, 2009) and is more frequent in males than in females. In 2001, 22.7% of males and 7.2% of females reported binge drinking in the USA. In this country, between 1993 and 2001, binge drinking episodes per person per year increased by 17%, with the highest rates occurring among subjects in the age range 18–25 years (Naimi et al., 2003).
In European countries, with the exception of the UK and Denmark, alcohol abuse among adults has been declining over the past decade with an overall decrease in the mortality due to alcoholic cirrhosis. This is at least in part related to improvements in …
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