Sunday 16 December 2018

Teenagers warned of long-term impact of early drinking

The HSE has launched a parent’s guide to alcohol and drugs.

The dangers of drinking have been spelled out in a new guide (PA)
The dangers of drinking have been spelled out in a new guide (PA)

By Michelle Devane, Press Association  

Teenagers have been warned that underage drinking can have long-term repercussions that could continue to “haunt” them into adulthood.

Health Service Executive (HSE) Addiction Services clinical lead Dr Eamon Keenan said young people need to be aware that their drunken behaviour can have consequences.

He said conversation was key to keeping young people safe from alcohol and other drugs.

Dr Keenan made the comments as parents and children came together over a cup of tea at the Vintage Teapot on Dublin’s Cathedral Street to launch of a parent’s guide to alcohol and drugs.

He said adolescence can be a difficult time, not just for teenagers, but also for parents.

“We know that alcohol is harmful for the developing brain and we must recognise that for young people the brain continues to develop well into their twenties,” he said.

Dr Kennan said underage drinking can lead to accidents, injuries, anti-social behaviour, poor school performance and in some cases self-harm. Long term it can cause mental health problems and addiction.

“With the advent of social media and the images being stored on the web forever, the repercussions of drunken behaviour may last much longer than the time they occurred and may continue to haunt a person into adulthood,” he said.

Dr Keenan added parents play “a critical role” in preventing such issues arising, and that the best way they can help is by delaying the onset of drinking for as long as possible.

The HSE is encouraging families to have a cup of tea and a chat, and for parents to get the conversation started with their teenagers and young people about the risks linked to alcohol.

The guide, which is available to download at, was written specifically for parents. It includes practical advice on how best to talk to them and how to help them to resist pressure from their friends to drink.

The launch coincides with European Action on Alcohol Week.

Brian Wall from the Institute of Guidance Counsellors said both parents and teachers needed to work together to tackle the issue.

Mr Wall said the booklet not only provided information, but insights and skills to help parents navigate the subject.

But he stressed that it shouldn’t just be about exchanging facts, it should be about sharing of emotion and feels.

“Conversations allow parents to impress upon their teen their views and their expectations of their sons and daughters behaviour and help establish boundaries,” he said.

Research shows that adolescents who receive permission from their parents to drink alcohol experience more alcohol-related harm long-term. This is thought to be because teenagers who get the “thumbs-up” from parents may tend to give themselves greater permission to drink more than their peers.

Junior health minister Catherine Byrne said the publication of the booklet follows the passing of the Public Health Alcohol Act, which she described as a “watershed” for Irish public health.

“All of these initiatives and policies are designed to help us protect our children from alcohol and alcohol-related harm,” Ms Byrne said.

“Parents play a critical role in this process, and I hope this guide will encourage them to have that conversation within their family about the risks of consuming alcohol and other drugs, and the damage they can do to our health and well-being.”

Press Association

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