Saturday 17 March 2018

Price hike on cards after huge rise in teen boozing

Louise Hogan, Eilish O'Regan and Fiona Ellis

The number of teenagers being treated for alcohol abuse has surged by more than 145pc in five years -- with more than half of them drinking before they turn 16.

The figures are contained in one of two new reports outlining worrying trends in alcohol abuse.

The first report highlights the significant increase in young problem drinkers -- as well as an overall rise of 43pc in the number of people treated for a drink problem.

The second report notes a disturbing increase in the number of children who have experienced verbal and physical abuse or witnessed violence as a result of their parents' alcohol abuse.

The research comes as a government minister said she wanted to introduce minimum pricing on alcohol as soon as possible -- but didn't know whether it would be legally possible to do so.

Junior Minister for Primary Care Roisin Shortall promised to look at new pricing laws to tackle the issue of problem drinking.

"There are many aspects to the alcohol problem in Ireland and we need to address those aspects in a multi-faceted way," she said. "That means to look at the issue of availability and the issue of price in particular.

"At the moment alcohol is available for pocket money prices. That's not a good situation," she added.

Last week the Scottish government introduced plans to legislate for a minimum price for a unit of alcohol.

In the Dail yesterday, Taoiseach Enda Kenny pointed out that 2,000 hospital beds were filled every night by people suffering from the effects of alcohol abuse.

The Health Research Board (HRB) yesterday branded the significant rise of young problem drinkers as "very worrying".

And one in five of teenagers treated for alcohol problems also has difficulties with other drugs, with cannabis the most common, followed by cocaine, ecstasy and sedative-type drugs.

The figures are considered an underestimation because not all treatment centres supply their data to the National Drug Treatment Reporting System.

The rate was highest in counties Sligo, Donegal, Leitrim, Waterford, Cavan and Wexford, and lowest in counties Mayo, Roscommon and Galway in the years 2005-2007.

From 2008 to 2010 the incidence rates were highest in counties Waterford, Leitrim and Donegal, and lowest in counties Wicklow, Clare and Laois.


Kathryn D'Arcy, director of the Alcohol and Beverage Federation of Ireland, said overall alcohol consumption had been declining steadily. She argued that this trend appeared to be reflected in the report, with a slower rate of new cases reported in the last two years.

The other report -- on behalf of the Alcohol Forum -- launched yesterday presented disturbing figures on the impact of drinking behaviour on young people.

The national drinking survey 2010 said children in Ireland were at risk due to their parents' hazardous drinking.

One in 10 adults reported that children, for whom they had parental responsibility, experienced verbal abuse, physical abuse, witnessed violence in the home or were left in unsafe situations as a result of someone else's drinking.

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