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Shocking figures over teenage boozing
CHILDREN as young as 12 are being admitted to hospital unconscious and covered in urine and vomit because of alcohol abuse.
An Echo investigation has revealed 68 people under the age of 18 have been admitted to Dorset County Hospital between April 1 last year and March 31 this year in drug or alcohol related incidents. Of this number 33 stayed more than 24 hours.
Dr Rachel Wharton, clinical director and consultant in emergency medicine, said the majority of cases are due to alcohol abuse.
She said: “I think the frequency is decreasing but it is still a very real problem.
“They range from about 12 years and most commonly are brought in from public places like the street and are often incoherent or unconscious.“ Many are in quite a humiliating condition – half-dressed, having wet themselves or covered in sick.
“It does create a strain in our department as these cases can be quite violent and difficult.
“Usually it takes several nurses to deal with one patient and it’s putting a big strain on our resources and taking care away from other people.”
Youth worker Tom Lane, of Steps, Weymouth, said the underage alcohol abuse was part of a binge drinking culture.
He said: “The vast majority of young people are not involved in alcohol or drug use but I would say alcohol abuse is an issue, more so than drugs in this area.
“I think we are quick to blame youngsters for their behaviour but as a society we have developed a culture of alcohol excess and binge drinking.
“We should all be shocked that children as young as 12 are going to hospital from excessive alcohol and we shouldn’t accept it.”
He added: “The efforts by police and the council to tackle licensed premises selling to underage people have made a massive improvement.
“If they want to get alcohol they will find a way – they ask older siblings or people on the street to buy it for them or get it from parents.
“The older they are the more likely to be involved in drinking and by the age of 16 or 17 it’s part of this lives that they are regularly drinking.
“There’s a very strong link between alcohol and other drugs and risking taking such as underage or unprotected sex or getting into fights.”
Parents are supplying booze
IN around 60 per cent of cases parents supplied the alcohol to their children, according to figures from the Alcohol Education Trust.
Helena Conibear of the trust which is based in Dorset, said: “We are really pleased that over the last five years underage drinking has reduced significantly.
“But this number is still definitely too high and I would like to see it go right down.
“It’s now much harder for people underage to buy alcohol but the side effect of that is the main supplier to people under 18 is parents.
“I would say to parents try and fill your teenager’s time with a part time job, volunteering, clubs or sports – it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.
“Drinking underage make you’re much more likely to be sexually assaulted or robbed, get involved in a fight and end up with a criminal record or facial injuries due to an accident.
“Because the brain isn’t fully developed at that age binge drinking does have an effect – it impairs long-term and short-term memory.”
Arrest affects future career
INSPECTOR Les Fry said: “The impact of alcohol and drugs on young people can be severe – there can be significant long lasting effects not only on their health but on future career prospects if they are arrested and charged.
“We would encourage parents to take a responsible outlook with young people and children – know where they are going, what they are doing and if they are drinking where and how they are getting it and not encouraging irresponsible drinking or supplying to them. We will deal with information on supply of alcohol to minors and we work closely with Trading Standards to ensure that retailers and licensed premises are being responsible within the community.”
Games aimed at becoming drunk
STEPS Youth Club volunteers Andy Barber, aged 23, and Mikey Hoskins, aged 24, spoke about their experiences of underage drinking.
They said they both started drinking alcohol when they were about 15 in Weymouth.
Mikey, a planner for an electrical company who lives in the Park District, said: “I started going to house parties and that went on to drugs when I was about 16.
“I used to go up the Nothe Gardens on Friday nights to go drinking.
“One of my friends ended up in hospital with alcohol poisoning and as soon as he was let out he went straight back out again.”
Andy, of Westham who works at the Sea Life Centre, said: “Once at a party when I was about 15 I drank so much that I was unconscious.
“It’s only because one of my friends put me in the recovery position that I was all right.
“It was one of the first times I had drunk. I didn’t know my limits and we used to play games to get drunk as quick as possible.
“People being sick at the end of the night was really common – it happened all the time.
“There used to be places you could go and get served underage but now it’s much harder.”
For advice about drinking or drugs visit Steps youth group, Chickerell Road, from 4pm to 5.30pm on Thursdays.
For tips and advice for parents visit alcoholeducationtrust.org
- UNDERAGE drinking can have serious effects on health.
Dr Wharton said being inebriated as a child or teenager had serious risks.
She said: “It’s an incredibly vulnerable position to be in and that’s one of the main problems.
“There is a risk of injury or risk-taking behaviour and they are more vulnerable because they are children.
“A one-off event doesn’t have major long term effects but the concern is that if it’s repeated behaviour it would definitely cause very serious health problems.
“We are seeing people dying from alcohol abuse in their 20s and 30s and they will have started drinking during their teens.
“The thing I would say to parents is you need good supervision.”
- Long-term underage drinking risks include: Liver damage, which does not have many warning signs and might only be discovered when very serious, impact on brain development, memory, reactions and attention span occur. There is as increased chance of alcohol dependency as an adult.
- Short-term risks include: Vulnerability to injury or victim of crime, unprotected sex and alcohol poisoning. Regularly drinking in later life can lead to cancer, stroke, heart disease and infertility.
- National figures from the Alcohol Education Trust show underage drinking across the country has halved in the last 10 years from 26 per cent of 11 to 15 year olds drinking weekly in 2001 to 12 per cent in 2012.
More than half, 55 per cent, of under 18s have not tried alcohol.
More girls were admitted than boys, 6,769 compared to 5,563, as girls tend to drink more spirits such as vodka than boys who drink more beer and cider.
Parents are the main supplier of alcohol to those under age and are the supplier in 60 per cent of cases.
The places where children are likely to drink out of the home are parks or at house parties.
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