Whilst the media bombards us with information that under-age drinking is an epidemic leading to an increase in Anti-Social Behaviour Orders, delving a bit deeper shows the impact this is having both on the health of the young people involved and also the strain on the NHS due to an increase in hospitalisation rates for under-age drinkers.
Worrying figures obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show a snapshot of the UK by focusing on Lancashire in particular. The figures show that last year, children as young as nine were being admitted to hospital due to dangerous levels of intoxication. Part of the problem is emotional; these children are not old enough to drink responsibly and make logical decisions. The other part is physical; children metabolise alcohol at a slower rate than adults and so the alcohol stays in their system much longer, resulting in more obvious inebriation.
So what is to blame for the growing incidence of hospitalisation rates? Children of alcoholic parents are more likely to have a problem with alcohol themselves because of the behaviour they have witnessed. But for those children whose parents do not have drug addiction problems? There is the fact that certain drinks are marketed towards a younger audience, with bright colours and a sweet taste. There is also the fact that the younger generation are looking older at an earlier age than previously, thus making it easier for them to get hold of the alcohol.
The problem is thought to be especially prevalent among teenage girls – many of us will have seen programmes on the television featuring young girls slumped over unconscious. This is heightening the risk that they will fall victim to crime, whether it be from violence or from mugging.
So what can be done about it? Well, in my opinion, it is about education. I believe schools should be spending more time discussing the dangers of alcohol with children, particularly younger children that have not yet had the opportunity to form an opinion on alcohol. Whilst there is no need to make children terrified of ever having a drink, it is reasonable to try and give them the information needed to make an informed choice. There are residential rehabilitation centres for adolescents with alcohol issues, but it would be better if it never got that far.
If you have concerns about your child’s drinking behaviour, please feel free to contact one of our addiction assessment counsellors at any time. Teenagers and drug addiction are two things that should not, but sometimes do go together. Seek help if you have concerns.