Call for more to be done to curb teen binge drinking

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According to a major new report commissioned by the Australian National Council on Drugs (ANCD), alcohol is the most widely used substance by young people with the exception of tobacco.

The report says binge drinking, 'at-risk' drinking and harmful drinking are increasingly becoming a problem which includes school age teens as young as 12, who drink drive and attend school while under the influence of alcohol.

The new report says the biggest problem Australian families are facing when it comes to substance misuse is young people binge drinking and each week as many as 2,000 high school students are drinking at a harmful level.

The rates for alcohol abuse increase with age, with approximately 11 per cent of 15 year olds reporting recent binge drinking compared to 21% of those aged 17 years.

Interestingly the report shows that proportion of young people using substances other than alcohol is considerably lower.

The most widely used illicit substance is cannabis which is used by approximately 14% of school age students, while only 2-4% of students reported the recent use of amphetamines.

The new ANCD report says it is critical that there is much more support for families coping with young people who are either binge drinking or have issues with drugs, to ensure family members are able to get support and assistance in their own right.

It highlights the fact that many family members helping people with drug or alcohol issues all too often do not get the right information or adequate support and end up feeling isolated and confused.

The report also highlights that many Australian families are now faced with coping with a young person with binge drinking problems - often creating enormous pressures on the family.

The report comes as the Australian National Council on Drugs highlights that at least 451,000 children live in a household where they are at risk of exposure to binge drinking by one adult; 78,000 children live in a household where there is at least one daily cannabis user and 27,000 children live in a household where an adult is using methamphetamines monthly.

ANCD Chairman Dr. John Herron says much greater investment needs to be put into treatment and support to help families who have young people with alcohol or drug misuse issues.

Dr. Herron says the report clearly shows that drug and alcohol use by young people has become normalised and is often seen as a rite of passage to adulthood but it is also clear that parents have an important role in influencing what happens to their children.

Adolescents are less likely to drink and engage in binge drinking if parents actively disapprove and the report says enhanced parental monitoring is the most effective strategy to minimise the risk of adolescents ending up drinking at risky levels once they start to experiment.

The authors say drug use impacts on everyone in a family and alcohol, drug and other services are needed to alleviate significant stress and reduce other problems in the community.

There is now good evidence to show that a family based approach to treating a young person with substance misuse issues can be effective.

The new report found that:-

  • The majority of treatment providers in Australia do not currently provide a direct service for families who have a young person with alcohol or drugs problems.

  • There is a higher prevalence of problematic substance abuse amongst young gay people and young offenders in the criminal justice system.

  • A quarter of young indigenous Australians use alcohol (27%) and half of all these (12%) drink to excess.

  • The significant needs of siblings are often overlooked and substance abuse by a young person creates enormous financial pressures in a family.

The ANCD is also calling for more money to be spent in dealing with the problem and for more research on the impact of problematic substance use, in particular alcohol on Australian families.

The ANCD says government and non-government services should be adequately resourced to deliver intervention programs to family members to help families and the impact of alcohol misuse on family members needs to be systematically investigated because alcohol is the most widely misused substance in Australia.

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