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Monday, 8 April, 2002, 06:30 GMT 07:30 UK
Alarm over teenage binge drinking
A third of 15 and 16-year-olds are 'regular drinkers'
A third of 15 and 16-year-olds are 'regular drinkers'
Binge drinking is a significant problem among teenagers, a report has suggested.

Up to a quarter of 13 and 14-year-olds claimed to have "downed" at least five alcoholic drinks in a single session.

The figure rose to half of all 15 and 16-year-olds.

The survey of 14,000 secondary school children across England, Scotland and Wales was carried out by Communities that Care for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

This is the latest in a series of studies indicating that young people are drinking worrying amounts of alcohol

Alcohol Concern spokesman
Its authors say such widespread misuse of alcohol amongst under-age drinkers "cannot safely be ignored by parents or policy makers".

They add that drinking amongst young teenagers is linked to anti-social behaviour and use of other drugs.

Among 15 to 16-year-olds, 27% reported three or more binges in the past month.

The survey also found 9% of boys and 5% of 11 and 12-year-old girls described themselves as regular drinkers, rising to 39% of boys and 33% of girls aged 15 to 16.

The majority of children said their parents would think it was wrong for them to steal or use illegal drugs.

But the proportion who said their parents would object to under-age drinking declined from 91% of 11 to 12-year-olds to 56% of 15 to 16-year-olds.

Law breaking

David Utting of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said the most worrying findings were 10% of schoolchildren saying they committed burglary and a quarter of 15 to 16-year-old boys admitting carrying a weapon.

He added: "The national picture is one of concern with violence and the amount of alcohol being drunk by children 13, 14 and 15.

"This is not a hand-wringing exercise, though."

Mr Utting said the main purpose of the survey was to help local communities compile their own local picture to target action where necessary.

Head teachers urge caution. They say a combination of imagination and bravado makes the results of such surveys of young people notoriously unreliable.

The survey found smoking cigarettes was not as much of a problem, with most 11 to 13-year olds and almost half 15 to 16-year-olds saying they had never smoked a cigarette.
Rolling a cannabis joint
Cannabis is the most popular illegal drug

But in each age group, more girls than boys said they smoked.

Cannabis was the illegal drug most young people had tried, with around 25% of girls and 30% of boys aged 15 to 16 having used it at least once.

Use of other illegal drugs was relatively low, but rose with age. Frequent abuse of glue or other solvent abuse was rare, but just under 10% of 13 and 14-year-olds said they had used them at least once.

Almost half of those surveyed said they had broken the law. One in 10 said they had shoplifted on three or more occasions in the previous year.

Almost four out of 10 agreed it was "all right to beat people up if they start the fight".

Barry Anderson, chief executive of Communities that Care who co-wrote the report, said: "There is evidence from our survey that particularly early drinking, and heavy drinking, is quite clearly associated with involvement in crime and anti-social behaviour.

'Cinderella issue'

"What we could see is that the ones who told us they were constantly drinking were also the ones self-reporting high levels of involvement in youth crime and use of other drugs."

GP Dr Sanjoy Ray told the BBC: "When they get older, they'll drink more and more. and they will have many medical problems along with other problems, like social problems."

A spokesman for the charity Alcohol Concern said: "This is the latest in a series of studies indicating that young people are drinking worrying amounts of alcohol.

"Yet there are still no official targets for reducing young people's alcohol consumption - as there are for drugs and smoking.

He called for urgent government action to spearhead a "joined-up approach" by all agencies providing support for young people addressing drinking and other factors contributing to their lifestyles, like family breakdowns.

He also called for a National Alcohol Strategy to look at education, prevention and support.

"Without such a proactive approach, alcohol misuse will remain a Cinderella issue when compared with drugs or smoking."

Author of the report Barry Anderson
"Generally speaking young people came out of this report very well"
The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"This survey reflects the sad extremes"

A new report highlights the problem of binge drinking among young BritonsYoung drunks
Why 'last orders' culture promotes binge drinking

What young people say about drink and drugsYoung drinkers
Kids speak out on alcohol and drugs
See also:

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