Children and Alcohol

A new batch of statistics released by BBC Wales indicate that despite the best efforts of the UK government more young people are being admitted to hospital for alcohol rated accidents and diseases. The study highlighted the necessary role of a child's family and advised that a new approach must be taken to increase awareness surrounding the dangers of alcohol abuse.After lengthy research into accident and emergency wards, BBC Wales has published some shocking statistics. Every year, the research shows that 1,200 children attend casualty for alcohol and drug consumption. Even more worrying was the news that the youngest of these children was just four years old.

Of course, heath services and professionals have long recognised the risks these substances pose. Yet despite various approaches to tackling the problem, more and more children are attending casualty every year. Last year, over 800 children were admitted for alcohol-related accidents. This was coupled with roughly 400 drug-related admissions. Due to incidents in which children may accidentally swallow drugs, experts were unable to provide accurate results.

Clive Wolfendale, chief executive of North Wales drug and alcohol agency, was interviewed about the statistics. He said, 'Rather than cannabis...opiates...ecstasy or legal highs...the substance of choice is alcohol.' The reasons for this, he says, are two-fold. Firstly, 'It's the cheapness and the availability because, in real terms, it's the cheapest it's ever been.' Secondly, it's 'the general thrust of marketing.'

Yet the results of the research reveal more than teenage binges. Of all the cases reported, many were related to actual alcohol poisoning, and some of the children admitted were younger than 11. Drug poisoning from narcotics and hallucinogens also featured in 39 cases, showing that raising awareness isn't working as it should. There has been a surge in education regarding the dangers of drugs and alcohol, yet the figures suggest that children are not responding to such projects. 

Children's Commissioner for Wales, Keith Towler, suggests a different approach - 'If we want to successfully combat this problem...we need to shift society's general attitudes.' 

The problem lies, Keith says, with adults and not children. He notes that although 'There is plenty of information out there,' children tend to succumb to peer pressure. And if that peer pressure is reinforced by a family's alcohol habits, children won't be able to resist. Of course education is important, Keith points out, but 'there is also a need for adults involved in a child's life to take responsibility.'

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