West Sussex parents warned over exam binge drinking
Monday 23rd August, 2010
With thousands of young people receiving exam results this fortnight, parents in West Sussex are being urged to talk to their children about the risks of binge drinking.
Thousands of teenagers received their A-level results last Thursday, and many more will collect their GCSE results tomorrow (Tuesday 24th August 2010).
NHS West Sussex is calling for parents to be aware of what their children are doing to celebrate and warn them of the dangers of underage drinking and too much alcohol.
Parents admit buying alcohol for their children
In a recent survey by Drinkaware, more than a third said they would prefer their children to get alcohol from them rather than an unknown source, and a fifth said they bought alcohol for their children so they could keep track of how much they drank.
However of those questioned a third of parents of 16 and 17 year olds said they have no idea what their child gets up to when they are drinking.
In addition, two fifths (41%) know that their child has had a bad drinking experience. One in five parents are aware their child has been involved in an accident (20%) or had unprotected sex (21%) when drinking and eight out of 10 (79%) know their child has been sick*.
Young people at risk by drinking to excess
Anna Kirk, Substance misuse lead at NHS West Sussex, said: “Lots of young people will want to mark the end of their exams with a celebration, but what we want to avoid is celebrating by drinking in a way that puts them and others at risk.
“Parents may think that they that they’re doing the right thing by making sure the alcohol comes from them, but if young people drink to excess it can increase their risk of being involved in a fight or accident, or having unprotected sex.
“Parents are in the best position to help their children make informed decisions about alcohol and what is sensible drinking. Although it may not seem like it sometimes, research has shown that teenagers would rather get advice on drinking from their mum and dad than anyone else. Parents have a huge influence on their children’s attitude to alcohol, often without realising it, and so we would ask parents across the county to take this opportunity and celebration time to make sure their children know how to avoid the dangers of too much alcohol.”
One in ten Year 10 pupils drink alcohol regularly
In West Sussex, the number of 14 -15 year olds who say they binge drink has fallen during the last three years. In addition the percentage of pupils who reported never drinking to get drunk also rose from 51.7% to 56.1%.
However many young people are still drinking alcohol, with at least 10% of Year 10 pupils drinking alcohol regularly. For boys, this is mainly beer and cider; while for girls it is mainly spirits and alcopops.
The young people questioned in our recent Lifestyles Survey, also admitted they thought their general health was worse than those who didn’t drink. In addition those who said they do binge drink reported side effects such as falling over, vomiting, headaches and memory loss.
Pressure from our drinking culture
Anna continued: “The younger that people start drinking, the greater the impact on their health and wellbeing in the future. In the long-term, drinking regularly to excess means teenagers are more at risk of developing serious health problems, including liver disease and cancers in the future. In the short term risks include violence, injury and those to sexual health.
“The challenge is balancing that they know they shouldn’t be drinking to excess with all of the reasons they think they have to drink such as our drinking culture and peer pressure. At this time of year there is opportunity for young people to drink alcohol in particular to celebrate exam results. Everyone has a part to play, parents, friends, bar staff, retailers – we can all set a good example so that young people learn how to drink responsibly and sensibly.”
Advice for parents includes:
• Be a positive role model. Adults should drink within the daily recommended guidelines (3-4 units a day for men, 2-3 units for women).
• Introduce the topic early - the average age for young people to have their first alcoholic drink is 13.
• Don’t make alcohol a taboo subject - ensure your child can talk freely with you about alcohol. If you’re not sure how to start the conversation, soap operas or news stories can provide a useful trigger.
• If your child does get drunk try not to overreact - talk to them about it the next morning: listen to what they have to say and try to understand their situation.
* Research taken from a One Poll survey on behalf of Drinkaware. Total sample size was 1,000 parents of 16-17 year olds in the UK. Fieldwork was undertaken between 21.05 and 27.05, 2010. The survey was carried out online.