WEDNESDAY, Aug. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Males account for the majority of U.S. hospital emergency visits involving underage drinkers, says a federal government report.

In 2008, there were almost 189,000 alcohol-related visits to emergency rooms made by patients ages 12 to 20, accounting for a third of drug-related emergency room visits by this age group.

Among patients who were underage drinkers, males accounted for 53.4 percent of those ages 12 to 17 and 62.1 percent of those ages 18 to 20, according to data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Of the underage drinking-related ER visits, 70 percent involved alcohol alone while 30 percent involved alcohol and other drugs. Drugs involved in visits involving a combination of alcohol and drugs included marijuana (57 percent), anti-anxiety drugs (17.8 percent), narcotic pain relievers (15.3 percent), and cocaine (13.3 percent).

When they looked at follow-up care, the researchers found that patients received it in 19 percent of cases involving alcohol alone, while about 72 percent of these patients were treated and released to their home. In contrast, 35.5 percent of cases involving alcohol and drugs received follow-up care.

"Underage drinking is deeply ingrained in American culture. Alcohol consumption, especially by young males, is often seen as an exciting rite of passage into adulthood. This has led to a public health crisis with adolescents suffering serious injuries that oftentimes lead to tragic consequences," SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde said in an agency news release.

"Every such emergency department visit provides an opportunity to conduct brief interventions that can reduce future alcohol and drug abuse and save young men's lives," she added.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about underage drinking.