Drink nightmare of 10-year-olds20 children a week need medical care
Published 01/11/2011 | 05:00
CHILDREN as young as 10 are being admitted to hospital every year following drink- and drug-fuelled binges.
Up to 20 children a week require medical treatment after drinking alcohol and taking a wide range of drugs; while substance abuse among 15- to 24-year-olds claimed 42 lives last year.
An Irish Independent investigation reveals that the numbers being admitted to hospital have remained largely static since 2005, with experts last night warning that public health prevention programmes did not seem to be working.
An analysis of deaths among drug users supplied by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) shows that teenagers are dying from ingesting a deadly cocktail of drink and drugs.
Data from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) also shows that abuse is rife across Irish society, and not confined to poorer areas.
Information on the number of young people attending hospital emergency departments is not available, but the numbers are likely to be far higher than those deemed so ill that they have to be admitted. The data shows:
•A total of 18,617 people of all ages were admitted to hospital for alcohol abuse last year; 6,872 were private patients or those without a medical card and, of the total figure, 5,790 were women. Some 562 were treated for poisoning.
•Another 3,800 were treated for 'mental and behavioural disorders' after ingesting heroin, cannabis, cocaine, hallucinogens like LSD and other drugs.
•A total of 928 people aged 10-19 were hospitalised last year. Some 196 were aged 10-14, and the remainder were aged 15-19.
•A total of 290 people aged 15-24 have died from drugs and alcohol. Last year, the figure was 42, which breaks down to 29 killed by drugs and 13 by alcohol abuse.
•Since 2005, 6,521 young people have needed hospital treatment -- more than 1,000 a year.
Hospital consultant Patrick Plunkett said last night that many patients were a danger to themselves and others.
"Alcohol is the big thing, because it's readily accessible. We do see the occasional teenager using heroin or methadone," he added.
Drugs Minister Roisin Shortall said there was a need to "get the prevention message across" to young people.
"The central aim is to reduce the amount of alcohol we drink," she added. "This will involve a wider societal change of attitudes to break the cycle of over-consumption of alcohol.
"The figures released now should serve as a stark warning to those young people who drink alcohol and use drugs."