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BBC OnePanorama


Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 November 2006, 11:14 GMT
Booze, What every teenager needs to know: Transcript

Booze: What every teenager (and their parents) needs to know
DATE: 19:11:06

ANNA: This is Newcastle, my home town. It's the binge drinking capital of the North, but that's old news. I'm looking for the next generation of drinkers. They don't go to pubs and clubs, they're too young. But when they are old enough they'll be ready. There's a park here with a load of kids hanging out, so I'll pull over here and go and have a word with them.

How old are you both?

BOY1: I'm 15.

BOY2: 17.

ANNA: What you drinking anyway?

BOY1: Bellambrusco.

ANNA: And how many have you had of them already?

BOY1: Three.

ANNA: So three litres of wine. If you've had three litres of that, are you still standing? You haven't had three litres yet.

BOY1: Well, (one in hand) that's third one and that in there (indicating bag) makes five.

ANNA: An exaggeration? Not according to the people who have to pick up the pieces.

IAN FORSTER: It's not unusual for a child of 14-15 to have consumed a litre of vodka where a litre of vodka would have me on my back for 3 or 4 weeks.

ANNA: And how much have you had tonight?

GIRL: Me? 4 litres.

ANNA: 4 litres?

GIRL: Aye.

ANNA: And how old are you?

GIRL1: 16.

ANNA: There are girls who can drink their dads under the table.

What have you been drinking?

GIRL2: Lambrini.

ANNA: White wine.

GIRL2: Yeah, this.

ANNA: And how much have you had to drink tonight? Watch out!

GIRL2: Just this and another 4 litres.

ANNA: 4 litres!?

GIRL2: Yeah.

ANNA: Why's that?

GIRL2: To have fun.

ANNA: And we'll be hearing new evidence which should make this lot think twice - if only anyone can get them to listen.

AARON WHITE: 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 brain.

ANNA: This is rural Somerset, a children's playground in the corner of a quiet village field. By night the kids don't come out to play - they come out to drink! It's just a normal Friday but there must be hundreds of them.

(Young people whooping and skylarking in dark of night )

ANNA: What are you all doing here?

BOY: Having a lot of fun.

BOY2: We're all just hanging around.

BOY3: I ain't got nowhere else to go.

BOY: Well else are we gonna do? We're not old enough to go to the pub.

ANNA: But I don't see any alcohol.

BOY: Exactly, we all hide it.

ANNA: More and more youngsters turn up with precious supplies of booze, some have even been dropped off by their parents. Soon there's trouble. The police are up there, some sort of fight. Look at all of this. People living nearby feel intimidated and several call the police.

POLICEMAN: Just go away.

LYDIA: We didn't do nothing.

POLICEMAN: He did, he kicked the car.

ANNA: They've got someone in handcuffs over there, he looks maybe about 16¿. 15, 16. I don't know what's happened yet, but this is just incredible, the scenes here.

GIRL: There's dogs as well. What the f*** is going on?

ANNA: A wing mirror has been kicked off a resident's car. It's typical of what goes on here every week, and alcohol's usually at the root of it.

Do you think they are bad kids?

Avon and Somerset Constabulary
Probably not, some of them might, no doubt are, but the majority are probably quite nice kids at school and any other time, but they get sort of egged on by¿ I think a bit of the mob culture here really, as well as the drink.

Excuse me, if I hear you swear again you will be arrested. You've been warned under Section 5 of the Public Order Act, if you swear again you will be arrested.

GIRL: ..speaking to him.

ANNA: Do you think that's the right way to deal with kids like that?

GIRL: Why do they need a dog? We haven't got drugs, we've got drink, well nobody has got it anymore, it's too late now, ain't it?

ANNA: And how much have you had?

GIRL: Well about 3 cans.

ANNA: 3?

GIRL: Yes, about 3.

HEARN: I estimated there must have been in excess of 100.

ANNA: Definitely. So do you need this dog?

HEARN: I'd like to think that I didn't but you never know what you're going to face, I mean, the dog just barking at them did the.. did the job of say 10 or 15 policeman. You've always had this sort of culture, drinking, in this country but these.. these children are like 12, 13 years old and they're so drunk, you know, I mean they.. they have no idea what they're doing.

ANNA: According to the most recent figures alcohol consumption among 11 to 15 year olds has doubled in just over a decade.

Source: Office for National Statistics

LYDIA: (in bedroom with friend getting ready to go out - door bell rings) Mum! Door!

ANNA: I got two of the girls from the park to talk to me. Abby is 15 and Lydia a year older. She hit the bottle when she was just 14.

LYDIA: Can I move some of this stuff?

ANNA: Young people are building their social life around getting drunk. So a quick alocopop before the next party in the park.

What would be your first choice?

LYDIA: Cider, I can't be doing with vodka.

ABBY: Yes, I know, but if I drink.. if I drink cider I'll get to like half way down the bottle and I'll be like, 'oh, I don't fancy this anymore', but if I get like half way down a vodka bottle I'd be¿ already be drunk so you don't care.


ANNA: Neat vodka?

ABBY: Yes. I reckon vodka tastes nicer without lemonade or something, or Coke or anything, I reckon¿

LYDIA: Can't drink it anymore. I cannot keep it down.

ANNA: That makes you throw up?

LYDIA: It does.

ANNA: But cider doesn't?

LYDIA: No. Cider's easy to drink, just drink it quickly.

ABBY: Cider makes me feel ill, it makes me really like really weird feeling in my stomach, like I'm gonna be sick, I'm never sick but it just makes me feel like I'm going to be.

LYDIA: Abby, you drunk cider the other week.

ABBY: Yes, I know, but I only drank¿ I only drank half¿ I only drank a litre of it.

LYDIA: Well I'm buying cider tonight, I don't know if you're having any to drink of it, but...

ANNA: Lydia's parents are downstairs, her father is an ex-prison warder and her mother is a nurse. They should be well qualified to deal with their daughter's drinking but they're up against a teenage booze culture they just can't cope with.

Everybody else is drinking, I think that's the pressure isn't it? And you don't want to be the only one who's not, so I think you¿ a bit like smoking, you learn to like it don't you? Because everybody else is.

Lydia's dad
I'm only a father so I'm the last to know of it, I just put it down to being a teenager and being a girl, that's what's the indoctrination I've been given, as all children act in a certain sort of way and she's no different than anybody else.

LYDIA: Give it here then.

ANNA: Lydia's dad is right, a recent European study showed a third of 15 and 16 year olds regularly get wasted on booze.

Source: European Schools Survey

LYDIA: (on phone to friend) Hello, this is Lydia, right could you do me a favour please, could you get me some drink in a bit. It's really important, I'll give you a fag if you do. Alright then, cheers me bab. Bye. Ah, bless him.

ANNA: Lydia's canny, if she saves her bus money and walks she'll have more to spend on cider, and she won't need to break the law, the older boy she's just called will buy it. Girls like Lydia aren't shopping for taste, they're shopping for strength and at pocket money prices.

LYDIA: Alright?

BOY: Yeah, not so bad.

LYDIA: Cider.

BOY: What do you want?

LYDIA: 2 litres¿ 4 litres for £2.00.

BOY: Yes, 2 litres for £4.00.

LYDIA: Alright, bye.

ABBY: Cheers.

ANNA: At what point did you begin to realise that there might have been a problem?

MAUREEN: I suppose linked with her obviously having had a drink from time to time, and we have alcohol in the house as well, so, you know, that would go missing and there was only one place it could be going.

ANNA: When did you realise it had gone missing?

MAUREEN: Probably, again, the last year, 18 months, and we stopped buying it.

DAD: We never denied her having a drink with us, it was a glass of wine with a drop of water in or an alcopop when there's people round, if we have a barbecue, alright, maybe get a couple of small drinks for her, but she acts and behaves like she's not really bothered about it, and then we find that she's going off and getting bladdered.

ANNA: The deal is done and the girls have got their hands on 4 pints of strong cider each, more than many adults could handle if they were honest.

BOY: See you later.


ANNA: Licensing laws and rules on underage drinking are irrelevant to this lot. They're getting drunk anyway and there's no-one to stay stop. They're hidden away in the shadows, out of sight of security cameras, and normally the TV cameras as well, but not tonight. We took our cameras out with the paramedics who have to mop up after teenage drinkers every weekend.

ANNA ADAMS: (in ambulance, siren wailing) The streets here in Liverpool are alive with young drinkers, it's a city with one of the worst track records on underage drinking. Kids drinking is nothing new but the amount that they're now drinking, that's what's changed. It's no longer just drunken adults clogging up our A&E wards, there are drunken kids there too. Hospital admissions for under 18's with drink related conditions have risen by 20% in 5 years, Liverpool is near the top of the table.

Source: National Health Service Information Centre

PARAMEDIC: Get in here, we'll sit you down, we'll sort you out. Ian, get that for me please. Sit there. How old are you mate?

LAD: 14.

PARAMEDIC: 14. Right. How much have you had to drink tonight?

LAD: Not much.

PARAMEDIC: Not much. What have you been drinking?

LAD: Nothing.


ANNA: This boy has been in a drunken fight. Our crew was called by a worried resident who heard him shouting for help. He's 14.

PARAMEDIC: Right, we're going to take you to hospital.

LAD: I've gotta get home.

PARAMEDIC: No, we're gonna take you to hospital.

LAD: Ah, no.

PARAMEDIC: Where is it sore?

LAD: Just where me tooth's gone.

PARAMEDIC: Just where your tooth's gone, on this side here? Is it sore here? Ok, so it's just here.

LAD: Ah, yes.

PARAMEDIC: Ok, have you had a lot to drink?

LAD: Too much.

PARAMEDIC: Too much?

LAD: Yes.

PARAMEDIC: Too much of what?

LAD: Too much for me.

PARAMEDIC: Too much for you, right.

LAD: Because I'm meant to have.. I'm meant to have a full set of teeth.

PARAMEDIC: At 14 you're supposed to have a full set of teeth, yes, so I agree with you there.

LAD: I've only got 14.


LAD: 14 teeth.

PARAMEDIC: There are¿ this way.

ANNA: This boy's drinking has cost him a tooth, but alcohol misuse in England alone costs 20 billion pounds a year, and teenagers are helping to run up the bill.

North West Ambulance Service
Resources are quite sparse anyway so to be dragged from pillar to post all over the city for underage drinking, which is avoidable, is keeping us from the patients that we're trained to treat, your heart attacks, your asthma attacks, things like that.

ANNA: But the casualties of underage drinking aren't just in A&E. Scientists now warn that this new generation of binge drinkers will face long-term consequences. I met Professor Aaron White, a leading expert on the effects of teenage drinking.

Duke University, USA
It's hard to find a drug that is as capable of damaging the brain or shutting down brain function as alcohol.

ANNA: The latest research on rats has revealed exactly what alcohol does to their adolescent brains.

WHITE: If you expose an adolescent rat to alcohol for 4 days in a row, a real true bender, there's dam¿ extensive damage to the brain, more extensive than in adult rats, and the damage that occurs, occurs in areas that are highly related to memory.

ANNA: And what goes for rats potentially goes for humans too. The adolescent human brain is still a work in progress and teenagers who drink heavily can damage their brains permanently.

WHITE: There's so much variability in kids in general and how they function once they reach adulthood, but you might take a kid who should be above the curve and put him below the curve as a result of their heavy drinking, and then you would just think, 'oh, he's an average kid', maybe he wasn't an average kid, maybe he was destined to be a superior kid in terms of intellect but the alcohol prevented that from happening.

ANNA: Adolescent binge drinking can literally suppress the development of a teenage brain, stopping teenagers becoming the adults they might have been.

WHITE: 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, the potential is there for these affects to be irreversible because the window of opportunity for moulding the brain ends once we enter our early twenties.

ANNA: But the dangers of drinking are the last thing on most teenagers minds. This was obvious to me back in Newcastle where the boys were more worried about getting a beer belly than anything else.

Do you ever worry about what it's doing to your body? About your insides and¿

BOY: (shakes head negatively) I'm fit.

ANNA: And you never have a hangover?

BOY: (laughing) (lifts shirt to inspect belly)

ANNA: Do you ever worry about what it's doing to your body because that's quite a lot you've had?

GIRL: No, me liver's fine.

ANNA: Do you ever feel like you're damaging your body?

BOY: No, unless someone like¿ and I'm not, not really like.

ANNA: In Somerset they've been drinking for 2 hours and Lydia has drunk her way through her pocket money.

(after the revelling, Lydia sits quietly on railings)

ANNA: Alright?

LYDIA: Hello.

ANNA: Hello.

LYDIA: Hello.

ANNA: Where's all that cider gone?

LYDIA: Gone.

ANNA: All of it?


ANNA: How much?

ABBY: 4 litres.

LYDIA: 4 litres between us.

ANNA: It's not even 10 o'clock.

ABBY: Yes I know¿


ABBY: ¿but it goes fast because it don't taste like alcohol.

LYDIA: If I had enough money I'd go and buy another 2 litres.

ANNA: If you had what?

LYDIA: If I had enough money I'd go and buy some more.

ANNA: And how do you feel?

LYDIA: Fine.

ABBY: I feel slightly tipsy.

ANNA: What did you drink?

LYDIA: I'm on a high.

ANNA: You're on cloud nine?

LYDIA: I feel a lot better than I would if I hadn't had the.. what¿ 2 ½, 3, litres of cider - I hadn't had. I'm not.. I'm not afraid to tell people how I feel.

ANNA: So does it open you up, drinking?

LYDIA: It does, I don't care what people think and I'm a lot.. I find it a lot easier just to keep it¿ it's like ah, I might be slurring and I might not under¿ I might not be able to get my words out but I find it a hell of a lot easier to communicate when I've had a drink.

ABBY: Even when you go to talk to someone, if you fancy them in a bar or something, then you go up to talk to them¿

LYDIA: Exactly, you go up and you talk to them.

ABBY: You have more confidence.

GIRL: You don't care what you say.

LYDIA: You think, well maybe I made a made a Muppet of myself but¿

ABBY: At least you have fun.

ANNA: Lydia's been drinking since she was 14. What began as teenage kicks has become a serious problem for her and her family.

Do you think that people have become too accepting of this underage drinking culture?

Lydia's Dad
Yes, it's not¿ it's a question of, 'it's not happing to my child', or, 'it's not happening to other children', without really knowing what your children are up to, as I say, I'm taken, out the blue, all of a sudden I'm presented with a child who's got an alcohol problem.

ANNA: And how does that make you feel as a father?

STEVE: Lost.

ANNA: So one father feels lost, how does it make the children feel?

How old are you?

GIRL: 17.

ANNA: And what does it make you feel like?

GIRL: I don't know¿ horny, woozy, loads of stuff, I don't know.

ANNA: And so how do you feel when you've had 3 bottles of that?

BOY: You're away with the fairies.

BOY2: Just a little bit woozy.

ANNA: Nice woozy or bad woozy?

BOY1: Good.

ANNA: And how do you feel the next day?

BOY: Fine.

ANNA: You never get a hangover?

BOY: No.

ANNA: You will when you get to my age.

A lot of the children I spoke to don't suffer from hangover or any other kind of symptoms that adults do, is that quite dangerous?

Duke University, USA<>br> Right, what's.. it's interesting, there are few things that as adults would keep us from going back to alcohol, and one of them is a hangover, you wake up and you feel horrible, you don't want to do it again because it.. it felt horrible. Our kids can stay up longer, keep drinking without falling over or falling asleep, and when they wake up they don't feel hung-over, so there.. there aren't those.. those knocks on the head to deter them from going back.

ANNA: So they might not get a hangover, but it's because they're teenagers that the alcohol is causing them special harm. Research shows teenage drinking increases the chances of them becoming alcoholics later on.

WHITE: The statistics showing that you're at increased risk of becoming an alcoholic later in life if you start drinking as a teen, that doesn't require heavy drinking, that just seems to be a result of just exposing the brain to alcohol during these critical periods of development.

ANNA: There are no safe limits for underage drinkers. But research also shows that every year a teenager avoids drinking will lessen the chances of becoming an alcoholic later in life.

WHITE: Every day that you delay the onset of drinking, so you go from 14 to 15 to 16 to 17, etc, the odds go down, and so from the.. from the standpoint of alcoholism the risks are pretty high if you're a young teen and start drinking - that you'll go on to have a problem.

ANNA: In Somerset it's the morning after the night before. Lydia has been drinking for 2 years, so she's already risked permanent harm.

When did you start drinking?

LYDIA: When I was about 14, so I just started going out basically with my friend and because vodka was cheap and we'd only get the little bottles, it was like 2.50 each and we'd both buy¿ well, 2.50 from both us, to make up the fiver, and we'd just go halves up on it.

ANNA: Did you have it with anything?


ANNA: Neat?


ANNA: But to have neat vodka, that's quite hardcore.

LYDIA: Don't know, I wasn't aware of how strong it was, so I just kind of just drank it and thought, 'ooh, I need some more'.

ANNA: And you actually liked it?

LYDIA: No, it made me heave, but when I realised I was getting really, really, drunk, really quickly, I thought, 'yes, I like it'. Everyone was like, 'oh my god, they can drink vodka', we were like, 'yes, we can drink vodka', and started downing it just like because everyone was watching us and we was like make everyone think that we're older than we were.

ABBY: (rousing in bed) Thanks for waking me up. Don't start.

ANNA: Do you think your parents actually realised how much you were drinking then?

LYDIA: No. No way. Because I used to come in really drunk and they'd say, 'oh, have you been drinking?', I'd say, 'no, I've only had half a can of Fosters', stumbles up the stairs, pukes in the toilet, and just like roll into bed and passes out.

ANNA: And you see her every day.


ANNA: Was it strange to know this had been going on and you hadn't noticed it?

STEVE: Yes, we've always got hindsight, and looking back ,and see there's the little telltale signs, but when you question, it's like there's a strop on, think, 'oh, she's just in a bad mood', so, wait, and say.. then she comes back, 'have you been drinking?', 'oh I only had 2', or, '1', and soon as you try and delve and go a bit deeper then you get the explosive¿ explosion, up in the air, 'well why don't you trust me', this, that and the other.

MUM: Morning.

ANNA: Like many parents Maureen and Steve didn't know how to stop their daughter drinking, short of locking Lydia up they felt helpless. Now they accept her occasional midweek binge drinking because it's a marked improvement. Five months ago she was drinking every day.

Lydia's Mum
Once they're out of the house they are to a large extent out of your control, I'm not saying we didn't make an effort to know where she was but you can't know where they are all the time and what they're doing, I mean you can only advise or, you know, otherwise be on their back all the time.

ANNA: Couldn't you just have grounded Lydia?

MAUREEN: Again, you know, she was grounded to an extent in that we began to control things far more, but grounding doesn't always create the answer that you want.

ANNA: They definitely didn't get the answer they wanted. When they clamped down on Lydia's drinking she ran away from home. These are the genteel streets of Bath where just 6 months ago Lydia was sleeping rough, it took her to her lowest ebb.

How bad did it get?

LYDIA: To the point where I was suicidal. I don't mean that in a funny way, it's just not funny, but¿

ANNA: And how did the drinking affect that?

LYDIA: It eased it, while I was pissed it was like, 'it doesn't matter'.

ANNA: So when you were drunk you felt less suicidal?

LYDIA: Yes. Yes. I used to come drinking there like every day when I was away from home.

ANNA: Every day?

LYDIA: Every day.

ANNA: Does it feel different to be stood here sober?


ANNA: And what time would you start drinking?

LYDIA: In the morning when I woke up, see people, make sure I had enough money to buy a bottle of Lambrini or something in the morning, get our juices going. It proper messed me up, I used to have like bad tummy aches, everything, really horrible. Well it's a fact that you've got to be 18¿

ANNA: Lydia's story might sound extreme but official figures show 14% of children ages 16 to 19 are alcohol dependent.

Source: Office for National Statistics

LYDIA: Sainsbury's market, I used to sleep here.

ANNA: How many nights did you spend out here?

LYDIA: 2 weeks.

ANNA: How did if feel sleeping out without a proper roof over your head?

LYDIA: It's exciting but it's degrading, it's like in the morning you're sitting up and like people walk past and they can blatantly tell like what you've been doing, and just sit there like, 'ok', and everyone just looks at you like you're nothing, I mean, you realise, 'actually I'm nothing'.

ANNA: Did you ever think, 'what am I doing here, I'm just a little girl?'?

LYDIA: No. I regarded myself as an adult.

ANNA: What's been the hardest bit about stopping drinking so much?

LYDIA: It's always reality now, whereas drinking was like a break from reality, ain't it, really? But I realise it's not actually doing me any favours anyway so there's no point in drinking quite as much.

ANNA: And how do you feel about the journey that you've had in the last 6 months from sleeping rough to how you are now?

LYDIA: It's been hard work, really hard, but I've managed it, I'm still here, so I'm okay.

ANNA: Lydia is now having treatment at Project 28, a teenage addiction centre in Bath.

Manager, Project 28
Lydia has been here for about 5 months, she's been with us, Lydia referred herself.

ANNA: And how much was she drinking?

WOOD: Whatever she could get her hands on and whatever she could afford, whatever she could¿ whatever money she would get would mostly go on alcohol.

ANNA: After 18 months of heavy drinking Lydia knew she needed help. She now sees a councillor every day after college.

WOOD: Tell me a bit more about that, tell me about the fears, tell me what has gone wrong.

LYDIA: I let people down.

WOOD: You let people down, ok. What else?

LYDIA: I let people walk away from my life.

WOOD: You let them walk away from your life?

LYDIA: Yes. I'm a pushover, everyone thinks like, 'oh, it's only Lydia, so it don't matter anyway'.

WOOD: It's only what?

LYDIA: 'It's only Lydia'.

WOOD: 'It's only Lydia'.

LYDIA: 'So it doesn't matter anyway'.

WOOD: Right.

LYDIA: I don't do nothing right, nothing I do is right, just, don't know, just like, I don't know, mm.

WOOD: Who tells you nothing that you do is right?

LYDIA: I just think that.

WOOD: Is that something you tell yourself or has that come from outside?

LYDIA: No, that's what I've told myself, or that's what I believe anyway.

WOOD: Ok. Ok, and you believe inherently that your parents are disappointed?


WOOD: Do you? Have you got any reason why they might be disappointed?

LYDIA: It's like I.. I didn't do my exams, I didn't do anything, I like ran away from them.

WOOD: You ran away from home for a while.

LYDIA: I treated them like shit basically. I'm not exactly the ideal daughter to have.

WOOD: And what would the ideal daughter¿ what's the ideal teenager, what do they do?

LYDIA: Polite, nice, they keep their bedroom tidy, they don't go off on one at every opportunity.

WOOD: I'd love to meet one of those, I would love to meet one of those.

ANNA: Lydia is one of the lucky ones, in some parts of the country only drug abusers get this kind of treatment. A recent study revealed that every pound spent on alcohol counselling can save the NHS £5.00 further down the line. But Colin Cripps, who spent 20 years working with addictive teenagers like Lydia, says alcohol abuse still isn't getting the funding it deserves from government.

Deputy Director, In-volve
The drugs policy in this country is increasingly focussing on the criminal justice system and on young people who are abusing category A drugs and that seems to be the overwhelming focus, unfortunately the drugs that most young people are using are cannabis and alcohol, and alcohol, far more than any of the others. It's become much more acceptable for young people, younger and younger ages, to indulge in binge drinking, to see it as a right of passage, that involves using it to excess, and increasingly, particularly with young girls, as a way of escaping problems.

ANNA: Back in Liverpool we're seeing just that, the emergency services are dealing with the high cost of teenage drinking. We're called to a 15 year old who's been on a lager and vodka bender in the park and then went on the attack.

FORSTER: Your head's split open. You butted someone...

LAD: Yes.

FORSTER: ... and it split open.

LAD: Yes.

FORSTER: Ok, were you knocked out at all?

LAD: No.

FORSTER: No. Have you had a drink tonight?

LAD: Yes.

FORSTER: What have you drank?

LAD: Vodka.

FORSTER: How much vodka?

LAD: A £3.00 bottle.

FORSTER: A £3.00 bottle?

LAD: Yes.

FORSTER: How big is that then?

LAD: About... (indicates with fingers small bottle)

PARAMEDIC: Can you look at me nose for me? Keeping looking at my nose for me. Lovely. How's your vision at the moment?

LAD: I don't feel any different except from that, which is stinging.

FORSTER: Ok, fair enough. Thanks Ian, whenever you're ready.

North West Ambulance Service
It's not unusual for a child of 14, 15, to have consumed a litre of vodka, where a litre of vodka would have me on me back for 3 or 4 weeks.

ANNA: But lots of teenage drinkers are destined to return to hospital later in life with more than a cut on the head. Down the road at the Royal Liverpool Hospital Professor Ian Gilmore, a liver specialist, is already seeing the longer-term effects of teenage binge drinking.

Royal Liverpool Hospital
They are clearly the ones we worry about most, they're the ones who are now going to be occupying my wards in 10, 15, years time with advanced alcoholic liver disease. I am seeing young women with end stage liver disease, which I just never saw 20 years ago, and that's because people are starting to drink younger and they're drinking more.

ANNA: So is the situation getting worse?

GILMORE: There's been a real change in the pattern of alcoholic liver disease, all liver specialists are seeing it. When I started as a consultant 20 odd years ago sclerosis was a disease of middle age and elderly men, now we're seeing it in both sexes, but particularly in young people - an increasing percentage of women.

ANNA: The underage drinkers in Liverpool are still keeping the paramedics busy. We were called to attend to a teenager who hadn't been drinking but was attacked by others who had.

PARAMEDIC: Get in the back for me. You sit down there for me. What's happened? Excuse me a minute, do you just want to step away for a minute lads.

LAD: Step away, we'll wait in the house mate.

PARAMEDIC: Yes, cheers¿ what's happened?

LAD: I was on the way back from the garage and these lads ran past me and slashed me with a knife.

PARAMEDIC: Let's have a look. Have you been drinking tonight?

LAD: No, I've just back from me nan's.

PARAMEDIC: You just got back from your nan's. Ian can you get us some dressings out the back please¿. the lads that did it to you, were they drunk?

LAD: Well I think so.

PARAMEDIC: Ok, listen, you have a laceration, about that big, underneath your arm, ok, you're going to need to go to hospital and that is gonna need stitching, ok.

LYDIA: (on telephone) And what time to do you want me to come up?

MAUREEN: Find out what time her mum's going out?

LYDIA: Her mum's going out at half past seven, she said, but she wants me to go up a little bit before that. Can I go up Abby's at about quarter to seven?


LYDIA: Did you find that bottle of vodka Ab¿ (laughs) my mum's head just turned so quickly¿ nothing, I was just winding my mum up.

MAUREEN: Good game Lydia.

LYDIA: Pardon?

MAUREEN: Good game.

ANNA: But Lydia's drinking is no joke to her parents, they've tried without success to warn her about the consequences.

LYDIA: Ok, bye. Bye.

Lydia's Dad
How do you stop it? We've put forward the case that you can't abuse yourself by consuming all these vast amounts of alcohol without paying for it in the longer term, which it certain will, even if it's not in the short-term - you get drunk enough; you walk out and you get knocked over by a car or you'll get attacked, you'll fall out of a window.

[clip from government's anti drinking film]

ANNA: Cue the government's new 4 million pound ad campaign, designed to stop binge drinking. But will it reach the audience it's aimed at?

University of West England
There's a lot of evidence, and has been for decades, that mass media campaigns on alcohol or illegal drugs don't discourage heavy use, or addiction, or accidents, injuries and deaths. We've had decades of health education on alcohol and in fact consumption's going up and problems are going up.

ANNA: In 2004 the government unveiled what it called its Harm Reduction Strategy.

[Clip from government's anti drinking film]




ANNA: The policy is aimed to tackle alcohol abuse through better education and treatment services, it hoped to address the antisocial behaviour and crime caused by drinking. News from the frontline is not good.

How long have we got before you think the situation becomes uncontrollable with underage drinking?

Royal Liverpool Hospital
I think the fact that we're seeing things getting worse rather than better 2 years after a Harm Reduction Strategy means we need to revisit this very urgently, and what we cannot afford to do is wait the 40 years that it took with smoking, we know the tobacco industry was incredibly powerful, it took a long time to get the health messages home, we cannot afford that same long timescale with alcohol.

ANNA: There are two government ministers responsible for alcohol policy but neither wanted to come on Panorama and explain their strategy. We wanted to ask them why the duty on cider hadn't gone up in three years. I went in that shop over there, I've just bought 5 litres of this really strong cider, it's 37 units here, and it cost me less than £5.00. That's more than a grown man should drink in a week.

GILMORE: We at the Royal College of Physicians have been calling for the price of alcohol, in real terms, to go back towards where it was about 20 years ago, by a gradual increase in tax. We know that is not popular with government, government does not want to be accused of being the 'Nanny State', but I think we're in a situation at the moment that where Nanny knows best, and if we don't do something we're going to regret it in a few years time.

University of West England
As alcohol's become more affordable consumption's gone up and as consumption has gone up alcohol related deaths has gone up, and this is a very important relationship, and although it's politically embarrassing, we have to address it sooner rather than later.

ANNA: So would a price rise affect teenagers, they don't have an income?

PLANT: Well teenagers do have money, some of them have lots of money, but, yes, a price rise would have an impact on teenagers, and there is evidence that if the price of alcohol rises the particularly heavy drinkers are most affected, so it could actually have a very good effect on teenagers.

ANNA: But what does Lydia think?

LYDIA: I don't want everyone to¿ I don't want the drink prices to change, I really don't. They should, but I don't want them to.

ANNA: And if they did what would happen?

LYDIA: I wouldn't be very happy. No, there would be a lot less children drinking; if you think about it, a bottle of cider's the same amount as a bottle of Coke, what's the point in buying a bottle of Coke when you can just¿ and you can buy alcohol and you can have a drink, quench your thirst and have fun at the same time, it's really twisted.

ANNA: We've just had a call that there's a 15 year old girl seriously intoxicated, who's possibly violent, we're on our way there now. So this isn't to someone's house is it?

PARAMEDIC: No, it's a public place, and there's loads of them, so watch yourselves please.

ANNA: This is Liverpool dockside, and another ambulance has reached the scene before us.

PARAMEDIC: Two calls, one is further down.

ANNA: Two separate calls.

PARAMEDIC: Yes, two separate calls, we believe that one has done himself some harm, ?? police officers, so we're gonna make¿

ANNA: And what's this ambulance here for?

PARAMEDIC: There's a drunken lady¿


PARAMEDIC: A drunken 15 year old. We'll get back in and we'll go down to the second job.

ANNA: We're looking for a 15 year old girl who seems to have disappeared. They think she might have fallen in the river. We've got a rescue team on the river here, the Mersey, and we've got a police helicopter, and the paramedics say if she is in the river she doesn't stand a chance. But after searching for an hour police decide she's probably just gone home. One drunken escapade has cost the public purse more than £50,000. Not exactly a cheap night out for the rest of us.

SOUND MAN: (testing mic) Go on keep talking¿

LYDIA: Talking, talking, talking, talking¿

ANNA: As part of her alcohol treatment, Lydia, who has been drinking for 2 years, has been encouraged to express her problem in song¿

LYDIA: Sometimes at night I feel all alone, the sun it rises, I'm still feeling lonely, sometimes it¿.

ANNA: She's come a long way after 6 months of treatment but Lydia is surrounded by a culture where having fun is geared around booze.

LYDIA: I'll hold my head high, I'm not alone, I'll take each day as it comes my way, this will not break me¿ was that better?

SOUND MAN: Wicked, to tell you the truth.

ANNA: What's the next step?

LYDIA: I don't know, I'm not gonna stop drinking. I'm not gonna stop drinking, because that's just boring, and I don't think I'll be able to do it either.

ANNA: Why?

LYDIA: I don't know, just, it's a ritual ain't it? It's part of.. it's part of teenage culture - to drink and get drunk, just not get as drunk as I do normally, and drink as often I do.

ANNA: Can you imagine being able to go out with your friends and not having a drink on a Friday or Saturday night?

LYDIA: No, because that just doesn't happen.

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