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Page last updated at 17:01 GMT, Monday, 20 November 2006

Booze: What every teenager needs to know

20 teenagers are diagnosed daily with alcohol poisoning and behavioural disorders after excessive drinking, according to NHS figures.

Panorama obtained the statistics during its investigation into binge drinking and young people.

Some medical professionals say that the government's harm reduction strategy is not working.

The president of the Royal College of Physicians, Prof Ian Gilmore said: "We need to revisit this very urgently."

He also argues that the number of underage drinkers would be reduced if the cost of alcohol was increased.

Panorama finds scientific research in the United States which suggests that young people who abuse alcohol risk long term damage to the brain and could face a life of ill health and addiction.

Professor Aaron White from Duke University in North Carolina has studied the behaviour of adolescent rats.

He said: "The research we have so far strongly suggests that adolescents who get drunk on a regular basis in particular run the risk of damaging their brains."

Reporter Anna Adams with Lydia
Panorama reporter Anna Adams with teenager Lydia

Panorama follows the story of 16-year-old Lydia who has been drinking since she was 14. She has cut down to two litres of cider twice a week but does not plan to stop drinking.

She said: "It's part of teenage culture to drink and get drunk."

In the last five years the number of under 18s admitted to hospital with alchol-related conditions has risen from 6,288 in 2000 to 2001 to 7,579 in 2004 to 2005.

Alcohol abuse currently costs the NHS 1.7 billion a year.

Panorama: Booze: What Every Teenager Needs To Know was on BBC One on November 19 2006.


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