CHILD CASUALTIES OF BINGE DRINKING
NHS INFORMATION CENTRE REVEALS SCALE OF HARM TO TEENAGERS
Over 160 children each week are admitted to hospital with alcohol-related problems. 8,494 youngsters under 18 ended up in hospital through drink in 2007.
The NHS Information Centre issued a survey with the report, revealing that children aged 11-15 years old who admitted drinking consume an average 11.4 units a week. The poll of 8,000 teenagers found that almost a third of 15-year olds considered it "fine" to get drunk at least once a week.
Overall, there were 207,788 NHS hospital admissions linked to alcohol in 2007, with a rise of 7% in the past year alone. 57,142 cases had a primary diagnosis specific to alcohol, such as alcohol-related mental disorders, liver disease and alcohol poisoning; 10% of these were under 18s. Three quarters of the alcohol-related admissions were for secondary diagnosis, when the patient is admitted for another reason but alcohol problems are evident; these include accidents caused by being drunk.
Doctors warn that they see more people in their 20s and 30s with alcoholic liver disease, previously witnessed only in the middle-aged.
Charities and politicians blamed the bleak statistics on Labour’s liberal attitude to alcohol, which has seen licensing laws relaxed to allow drinking round the clock, and its failure to tackle supermarkets selling alcohol at "pocket money levels". "Pouring out drink at cheap prices gives children easy access to alcohol," confirmed leading addiction expert Professor Roger Williams.
"These cases put enormous pressure on an already overstretched NHS," added Conservative health spokesman Andrew Lansley.
There were wide regional variations. The north east had the highest rate of alcohol-related admissions. East of England had the lowest.
There has been a 19% rise in alcohol-related deaths since 2001 to 6,500. Two-thirds were men.
There has also been a 20% increase in drugs prescribed in an attempt to help this.
"These figures show a depressing rise in all the indicators of drink-related damage to health," stated Professor Ian Gilmore, president of the Royal College of Physicians.
Public health minister Dawn Primarolo said the government was working to reduce the figures. "The NHS spends £217million a year on specialist alcohol treatment," she said. Addiction Today will be writing to her to request a breakdown of the figures to see how much, if any, is going to frontline treatment – and a breakdown of exactly what type of "treatment" is covered.