Teen binge drinking out of control

Apparently teenagers in the UK have one of the highest rates of binge drinking in Europe.

This quite shocking revelation by a pan-Europe survey of 15 and 16-year-olds, shows that the number of UK children admitted to hospital because of drinking alcohol has risen by 11% since the mid-1990s.

In 2003-2004, 4,647 under-18s were admitted to hospital, the equivalent of 13 a day, which is up from 4,173 in 1996-1997.

Also on the rise is the number of adult admissions, up by 15% to 41,122.

According to Liberal Democrat Paul Burstow, a member of the Health Select Committee, this rise shows teenage binge drinking to be "out of control".

The habit of binge drinking has been on the rise for a number of years and last November it was identified as one of the key public health issues in a government white paper.

A Department of Health spokeswoman says they are making progress in reducing the number of young binge drinkers, but British teenagers remain among the heaviest drinkers in Europe.

The survey in December last year revealed that amongst 15 and 16 year-olds, 26% of boys and 29% of girls in the UK had indulged in binge drinking at least three times in the previous month.

The latest figures are part of a Parliamentary answer to Mr Burstow, the Liberal Democrats former health spokesman, who has said that the number of children being admitted to hospital for alcohol-related disease is shocking and demonstrates that binge drinking among teenagers is completely out of control.

Burstow says the government has 'dithered and delayed' in it's approach to alcohol, and it has taken eight years for ministers to begin to wake up to the problem and ask the NHS to draw up alcohol harm reduction strategies.

The government's push to relax the licencing laws was also attacked by shadow Home Secretary David Davis.

He says that with illness due to underage drinking on the rise, it beggars belief that the government is prepared to to press ahead with even longer drinking hours which will simply lead to more under age drinking.

According to a spokeswoman for Alcohol Concern, since 1990 mean alcohol consumption among those adolescents who drink had risen from five to 10 units a week.

They say it is not surprising that some end up being admitted to hospital for alcohol-related problems or that an 11% rise in teenage admissions since 1996/1997 is being seen.

Alcohol Concern says there are no safe guides for what young people can drink, but it is clear they are very vulnerable to the effects of alcohol, and need advice and education on the risks of excess drinking.

The Health department says that figures released earlier this year show that between 2003 and 2004 there was a drop of 2% in the number of 11-15-year-olds in England who had drunk alcohol in the past week.

They acknowledge that more needs to be done and say they have the measures in place to improve education on alcohol as well as clamping down on the selling of alcohol to those under-18.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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