Statistics indicate that alcohol and drug addiction among young people is rising. This trend is very worrying and solutions are not simple. The biggest fear is that these teenagers are setting themselves into a cycle of addiction that will be very tough to break.A recently released report shows that the percentage of children aged under 15 drinking alcohol has risen, and that in Wales specifically, there is a significant rise in admissions to alcohol rehab units following addiction to alcohol and cannabis. According to statistics there were 479 referrals for drug treatment in the period 2010-2011. Although this seems only a slight increase on the figures returned in 2009-2010, (463) it reflects a steady increase on a yearly basis since the studies began in 2008. Perhaps more alarming is the figures showing how much children are generally drinking weekly.
The study found that as many as 4% of young children between the ages of 12 and 13 are drinking the equivalent of 19 glasses of wine per week – or 28 units of alcohol or more. This is far and above the advised level for an adult let alone a child. The study which focused on the behaviours of 83,000 pupils in Years Six, Eight and 10 across the UK, revealed that 11% of Year 10 pupils drank more than 10 units of alcohol in the last week.
Abuse was not just restricted to alcohol. There appears to be more drug treatment referrals for children after they have abused stimulants, tranquilisers and sedatives. What is perhaps more alarming is the fact that teenagers are admitting to using legal drugs to “get a high”. The danger with abuse of legal drugs is it much more difficult to monitor and police, and to restrict access. Also because these legal substances are not reported in the media, the detrimental effects are not spoken about –so children are not realising the risks they are running.
Jane Roberts, helpline manager at the Wales Drugs and Alcohol line said: “They have no idea what they’re taking. If they can go somewhere and buy this stuff and it isn’t illegal, they’re assuming it’s safe and it doesn’t mean that at all. There are also questions about quantity. People seem to be taking bag-fulls of this stuff. They don’t realise it will take a while to take effect so when it doesn’t seem to do anything immediately they take more. It’s so dangerous.”
The other issue which concerns experts in the alcohol and drugs treatment field is that these children could unwittingly be setting themselves on an addictive cycle. If these behaviours are allowed to go on, it could become part of a social cult, and for the teenager – who is at the age where they want to rebel against everything – this could be a hard issue to break.