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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 December, 2004, 09:44 GMT
UK teenage binge drinking: Your reaction
Teenage drinkers
British teenagers indulge in binge drinking and drug taking more than most of their European counterparts according to a survey.

Since the last survey by the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs in 1999, girls have overtaken the boys as the most frequent binge drinkers.

It found that 29% of girls admitted to binge drinking three times in the previous month compared to 26% of boys.

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Paul Burstow MP said the number of children turning up in hospital because of alcohol was "shocking".

What is your reaction to this report? Should efforts be made to curb teenagers behaviour? Who should be held responsible for the actions of teenagers?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


The following comments reflect the balance of comments received so far.

What is it that drives anybody to drink to excess?
Jennifer Hynes, Plymouth, UK
The question should be asked, why is it always Brits that come out on top in these surveys? What is about British society that drives young women to drink to excess? What is it that drives anybody to drink to excess? It's all very well tackling, or trying to tackle, the end result, but what do you do about the issue at root? Listen to the social commentators, and understand it's our society's makeup that drives people to this.
Jennifer Hynes, Plymouth, UK

One of the things that has changed is that we have drinking establishments targeted at teens. Once upon a time all ages drank together, and the older people could set an example to the younger. Perhaps town planners should be insisting that drinking establishments should attract all ages?
Simon Richardson, London, UK

'Binge' drinking has been with us since the first alcohol was brewed. Most people have indulged in it with the resultant hangover that taught you not to be so stupid again. As for the resultant public order problems - bring back the water cannon.
Martyn, Stratford upon Avon, UK

It's not the fault of pubs and shops selling alcohol to kids, it's society itself. The media portrays you cannot have a good night out or be part of the gang unless you drink. Even if you enforce licensing laws more it won't make a difference. If kids want to get their hands on alcohol they will.
Sarah, Chester, UK

This has nothing to do with giving teenagers "something else to do". Teenagers in other European countries go out clubbing but don't seem to need to end up legless at the end of an evening.
Anonymous

High alcoholic cocktails have been around for decades
Graham, Berkshire
It's hardly a new thing. People can blame the advent of alcopops, but high alcoholic cocktails have been around for decades. When I started drinking in the mid 80's, I learnt a swift lesson in drinking from the people at my local pub. Pints fill you, whereas shorts and cocktails do not. Thankfully I recognised the difference between the quality of a drink and the quantity of a drink. That and appreciating my own limits to stop drinking when I was getting full. It just amuses me just how much money 'binge drinkers' are willing to spend on their pursuit. I brew my own now, and spend the money saved on other things.
Graham, Berkshire

Prosecute some landlords and take away some licences.
Frank, Bristol

Is this not a fault of society? I reckon if binge drinking wasn't so prevalent among adults then it wouldn't be so widespread in children. To me, this is just another scar on the jaded complexion of the UK.
Doug, UK

The Government must take an active hand in developing more cultural activities for young and old people
Richard, Barcelona
If teenagers had viable alternatives to drinking in bars the problem would be reduced. The Government must take an active hand in developing more cultural activities for young and old people. Teenagers whose parents visit art galleries rather than sit in the pub are more likely to follow suit.
Richard, Barcelona

Those of us who have lived with an alcoholic parent or partner and have witnessed the destruction and misery it causes will understand best that excessive drinking is neither funny nor cool and we should be trying to dispel this image for the sake of the younger generation.
Anon

Give teenagers something else to do on a Friday and Saturday night and binge drinking will die. At the moment there's nothing else for the average teenager to do at the weekend.
Adam Horton, High Wycombe

The assumption that binge drinking is a new problem is simply ignoring history
Simon Everitt, Brixton, Londo
It would be interesting to see what the same survey would have found fifty years ago, or even twenty? The assumption that binge drinking is a new problem is simply ignoring history. We have to accept that for whatever reason the British have an unusual relationship with alcohol, particularly when compared to our European neighbours. In the 14th century Oxford, now a place revered as a centre of educational excellence, was under curfew. The reason? Drunken students. This report is perfect timing for a government obsessed with frightening us into ignoring the real issues facing us, namely the very survival of our democracy.
Simon Everitt, Brixton, London

So, we go out and get trashed every weekend? So what? It's our bodies and we are old enough to understand the health risks. Stop patronising us and mind your own business!
Ian, Manchester

I started going to pubs at 14 (I am now 23). I looked older than I was and so could get served in most places. If the age was brought up to 21 and you had to prove your age before you get served then this might help the situation a little. However, there will always be those that find a way to break the rules.
Hannah, UK

I am always hassled to drink alcohol
Joe, Oxford, UK
Children are only mirroring adult behaviour. I've never been interested in drink because my parents never were (sure they would drink wine or the odd can of beer here and there - but no excess). But even as an adult, when I'm out with friends I am always hassled to drink alcohol (and it is the same with drugs). To children this peer pressure is a very powerful driving force.
Joe, Oxford, UK

In Ireland, we've allegedly got a worse binge-drinking problem than the UK, which I well believe. As well as the perception of being cool and a sign of status, the complete lack of any affordable recreational alternatives is a major one. If pubs, in particular, were forced to pay insurance to cover damage and anti-social behaviour caused by their trade then we'd see a bit of equality. Just like insurance costs have wiped out most of our harmless community events and voluntary sports activities which traditionally gave an outlet for youthful energy. It would be a start anyway...
Rory, Ireland

The only way to stop underage drinking is to cut the supply chain. Back when I was 14 it was a challenge to get hold of any booze. Nowadays they can just wander in to the local supermarket.
Paul, UK

The main recreation in this country is drinking, why should teenagers be any different??
Julia, Nottingham
I don't think there is anything that can be done about it. Ten years ago I was drinking at 14 and it wasn't because it was cool, it was because we had nothing else to do. Also the adult population in this country do nothing to set a good example to youngsters. The main recreation in this country is drinking, why should teenagers be any different??
Julia, Nottingham

If you look at A&E departments across the UK on any Friday or Saturday 90% of admissions are alcohol related, many of them teenagers. If they were to pay for the cost of treatment it would soon make many of them think twice, help the NHS budget and give some of the administrators something to do.
Ian, Gillingham, UK

Part of the problem of binge drinking is down to this country's terrible culture. We see 'getting drunk' and the subsequent vandalism and violence as amusing and funny, but in reality it is quite a serious problem. Until people are made to realise that drinking isn't as cool as it is made out to be, I don't believe anything can be done about it!
Andy, Leeds, UK

If kids are going to drink, the best place to learn is in the home under parental supervision. At least then they can have a soft learning curve. However parents are not necessarily responsible for the underlying reasons why kids over-indulge. If I was a teenager growing up in this country I would resort to booze. What do they have to look forward to? Unaffordable housing, high taxes, debt, lack of personal freedom, over-regulation, poor public services etc, etc.
Andy D, Oxford, UK

These reports are just stating the obvious
Tim, Lancashire, UK
Teenagers are always going to experiment, and are always going to go against what they are told. Nothing has changed in the ten years since I used to buy "White Lightning" cider and sit on a park bench. These reports are just stating the obvious.
Tim, Lancashire, UK

Raise the drinking age to 21. It is beyond a shadow of a doubt that today's younger people are not mature enough to be trusted.
Dave Mac, London, England

If you allowed children to drink alcohol (such as wine), like the French do, it would remove the need for experimentation. Remove the mystery, thrill and excitement - and you will remove the problem.
Bob Hotson, Minchester, Lancs

I used to go to pubs when I was 16 (I am now 53) so it would be hypocritical of me to stop our children from doing the same. Hopefully we have shown them by example that it is possible to enjoy a few drinks without having to get drunk every time.
Roger, Stockport, England

Planning authorities have to accept their responsibility
Sally A. Stacey, Sheffield
Traditional 'locals' encouraged having a quiet pint of mild, over a game of cribbage, surrounded by members of your community. Modern town centre bars actively encourage young people to drink excessively 'en masse'. They are loud (talking gets in the way of drinking), there are no seats or tables (putting your drink down gets in the way of drinking) and push high strength drinks. The drinking hours were relaxed a few years ago to cut out binge drinking and the problem has got worse, so relaxing them further will not help. What we must do is stop opening more and more of these bars in our towns and more importantly, start closing some of the ones that are already there. Planning authorities have to accept their responsibility in this.
Sally A. Stacey, Sheffield

It's the classic response to pressure from society. If you tell a teenager not to do something they will. If you tell them to do something, they won't. If the media and society in general stopped hyping up drinking then it would die a death.
Andy, Brighton, UK

My dad had a drink problem and it turned me into a teetotaller. But once my friends started going out binge drinking, I effectively became a social outcast. There is huge peer pressure to drink and by refusing to drink I isolate myself. It's very depressing.
Jeffrey, London, UK

As soon as we teach teens that alcohol and drugs need respect, these figures will go down
Max, Bedfordshire, UK
It is all to do with image, if kids are not allowed to drink or take drugs then that just adds to the excitement, I remember when I was between 15 and 17, the idea of going out and getting wreaked was exciting because I "wasn't allowed", but now I am 19, I don't drink at all (yes you read that right, a 19 year-old teetotaller) as the prospect of a killer hangover has, strangely, lost it's appeal. As soon as we teach teens that alcohol and drugs need respect, these figures will go down.
Max, Bedfordshire, UK

I always wonder about the validity of surveys where people are asked if the do something or not. If binge drinking is seen as being cool and trendy then what makes the people who conduct the surveys conclude that the people they ask are telling the truth? Saying and doing are two different matters.
Adrian Mugridge, Chester, UK

Our kids are being bombarded by images of drunkenness and thuggery from an early age
Joe Bradshaw, Hereford
Well this would not surprise me in the slightest. Our kids are being bombarded by images of drunkenness and thuggery from an early age. If young children see adults falling out of pubs drunk and bragging about drugs experiences then they to will see it as quite normal and socially acceptable. Me and my family have had enough of this downtrodden crime ridden country we live in so we are off to start a new life in New Zealand in January where childhood is respected and honoured. So many thousands of people emigrated from the UK this year there will be nobody left living in large parts of the country before long.
Joe Bradshaw, Hereford

Teenagers will always experiment with alcohol - it's part of growing up. The problems arise from the high-strength of drinks available today and the excessive drinking habits of much of the adult population - where is the role model in that? Teenagers often have an undeserved bad reputation - most of them are decent human beings who make mistakes, sometimes when faced with unfamiliar situations, just like the rest of us.
J Freeman, Weymouth-Dorset, UK.

People "who can drink" are admired
Sanj, London
Drinking is encouraged in all aspects of British life. People "who can drink" are admired. For example the West Indian Cricketer Viv Richards, on BBC's Sports Personality of the Year show this weekend, said Ian Botham taught him "how to drink".
Sanj, London

Perhaps the government's idea for ID cards is not such a bad idea. If retailers insist on seeing them before making any sales then the amount of teenagers getting alcohol will fall. Speaking from experience, 10 years ago it was easy enough to obtain fake ID and find the retailers that would sell us alcohol underage and it seems even easier now. A government backed system should work better than voluntary prove it cards that are sued now.
Anon, Birmingham, UK

If this survey is based upon a survey of teenagers, does it take into account how many of them will be lying about their drinking habits in order to look cool and grown up?
Andrew, Manchester, UK

Why not increase the price of alcohol drastically so it deters some binge drinking
David Parry, Nottingham, UK
I understand that in real terms the cost of buying alcohol is less than 10 years ago. Why not increase the price of alcohol drastically so it deters some binge drinking and will bring in extra income to the state. I cannot see how anyone could complain about such a price increase.
David Parry, Nottingham, UK

Do nothing. At the moment 'binge drinking' is trendy. The more the media go on about it, the more young people will do it. Shut up about the whole subject and in 12 months time it will no longer be an issue.
Andy, Figheldean, UK




SEE ALSO:
Women 'better at holding drink'
11 Oct 04 |  Health



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