Almost 300 children under 12 have been admitted to UK emergency rooms after drinking too much alcohol. A report from BBC Radio 5 shows that a total of 6,500 people under the age of 18 were admitted to hospital in the past year alone.
Many health authorities believe that the total number of children drinking is going down but the children who are drinking are consuming more alcohol which could explain the large number of hospital visits.
Over the last 5 years, the UK A&E departments have seen nearly 48,000 people under 18 for drug or alcohol related problems. With more children being admitted for serious drinking, officials are worried that this binging could have long term consequences. Another worry is the fact that children start drinking younger and they are drinking far more than their historic counterparts.
Another startling revelation from the data is that, among teens, girls are more likely than boys to drink to the point of hospitalisation. Worse still, those who are being admitted to hospital are not turning up at the door of a hospital. According to Morten Draegebo, an A&E consultant in an interview with the BBC, "The typical patient may be found in a field. They often need to hide away from any sort of adults in the area so they're picked up by the ambulance service. They have difficulty locating where they are because the description comes through from a distressed half-drunk teenager potentially saying that they're under a tree somewhere in a large park. Eventually they're found but even in summer-time in Scotland they're vaguely hypothermic. They have vomited. The vomit may go down the wrong way into the lungs. They are unable to defend themselves even from assault."
Dr Draegebo added: "We have had many cases where teenage, young teenage females have come in saying that they may have been sexually assaulted and they're that intoxicated and are distressed and say, 'I may have been', but they don't even know if they have been or not. On a humane level that is very distressing. I'm a parent, I would hate for that to happen to my daughter."
To help prevent children from obtaining alcohol, experts and officials are looking to parents. Most children do not buy their own alcohol, they take it from parents or get it from friends. It is important for parents to understand that children are smaller and far less accustomed to alcohol. That means they get drunk faster and they are more likely to have a negative experience. This means parents need to teach their children about responsible drinking and take steps to prevent their children from obtaining alcohol.