Page last updated at 00:24 GMT, Wednesday, 23 January 2008

The teenage girls who drink too much

By Catherine Marston
BBC News social affairs correspondent

Paris Hayes
Paris accepts she is not a nice person when she drinks alcohol

Paris Hayes is 17 and began drinking when she was about 14.

Her drinking led to her truanting from school in Hull, and getting into trouble. Her problems began early in her teens as her mother began to suffer from alcoholism.

There was always alcohol in the house and her mother would frequently ask Paris to buy it for her.

Paris says she doesn't blame her mother, she understands alcoholism is a disease, but she is in no doubt that her mother influenced her attitude towards drinking.

Her mother did not like her drinking and they often argued about it. But Paris did it to upset and hurt her mother.

"Because my mum was always drinking I didn't want to argue with her," she says. "I was annoyed at her so I'd go and drink myself."

"I'd seen the effects it had on her," she explains. "How she acted, she got depressed and I guess I did it because she made out it made her forget everything so I did it".

'I was naughty'

Paris dropped out of school and got a job. It was after work that she would drink shots and whiskey and vodka.

I regret some of it now like my school... I could have done a lot better
Paris, 17

She accepts she is not a nice person when she drinks and alcohol makes her do silly things.

Paris says she was an idiot and she regrets not working harder at school and skipping lessons.

"I was naughty," she says. "I am a plonker. I know I was. I can't make up excuses for doing it, it's just how I reacted. I regret some of it now like my school... I could have done a lot better."

Paris has now moved out of home to try to change her lifestyle. She's being helped by a Positive Futures project in Hull and is studying football coaching at college.

Her life is slowly changing. She knows binge drinking has put her future in jeopardy but she's hoping she can change her drinking habits now for good.

'Just a laugh'

Thirteen-year-old Shannon Frame from Coventry has been drinking for a while, mostly at weekends, when she spends time with her friends.

In one evening she and her two girlfriends will drink two large bottles of cheap wine and several bottles of alcopops.

Shannon Frame
One day I could drink too much and I could not be sitting here. It does make me think
Shannon, 13

They are frequently drinking more than the recommended weekly safe level of alcohol for adult women.

Shannon says she drinks for something to do - it's a way to escape and have fun as she sees it. She also does it to look big, to look older than her 13 years.

She doesn't believe she's drinking that much, but is loath to reveal exactly how much she consumes as she fears what her parents will say.

"It's not like we do it so we get drunk", she says. "It's just to have a laugh. You just do it like most teenagers do it at one stage".

Spending money

Shannon's mother and father are aware their daughter drinks and they in no way condone it.

But Shannon has found ways round her parents' opposition to her drinking. She waits outsides shops and off licences and asks shoppers to buy alcohol for her.

She goes to visit friends who have got hold of wine or cider and they share that.

Wine bottles
There is concern cheap alcohol is fuelling teenage drinking

Perhaps even more shockingly, she sometimes gets alcohol from adults.

"Our friend's mum, we'll be sitting in the lounge and she buys a bottle of WKD for us all," she explains. "Or if there's a party like New Year, then we're allowed to drink."

Shannon says the alcohol tastes like fruit juice or pop. She can't even tell she is drinking alcohol, and it's so cheap - in some stores about 1.06 for a litre-and-a-half bottle - that her spending money easily pays for the wine.

Shannon knows she could be creating problems for herself in years to come. She insists she doesn't want to be an alcoholic.

She knows that her health could really suffer and yet she doesn't stop.

She attends a positive futures group in Coventry and has received lots of advice about drinking and its implications.

Some of the messages seem to have got through to her and she insists she is cutting down, but she knows probably not enough.

"It's wasting my life away really," she admits. "One day I could drink too much and I could not be sitting here. It does make me think."


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