Australia faces underage alcohol addicts

Saturday, February 12, 2011

SYDNEY - Kids as young as 10 years in Australia are undergoing treatment for alcohol addiction, while five teenagers and young people die each week in incidents related to heavy drinking.

Recent studies have confirmed experts’ fears that underage drinking is out of control, The Daily Telegraph reported Saturday.

One in five teenagers now regularly binge-drink by the time he or she turns 16. The rate jumps to about 50 percent by the time they turn 18.

According to a national survey of high school students in Australia, it has been found that parents have eclipsed friends and all other sources of supply for young people. One in three children aged 12 to 17 now turns to any of the parents to provide the rocket fuel they want to ignite a party.

Ted Noffs Foundation’s CEO Wesley Noffs said his organisation was being approached to provide residential rehabilitation to minors as young as 10 and 11, while Odyssey House’s boss James Pitts said alcohol was blamed for a 33-year high in admissions.

“When I first started working in this industry 25 years ago I saw case files on 16-year-olds and I was sceptical you could even have a problem at that age,” Noffs said.

“But 10 and 11-year-olds can really have serious drug and alcohol problems, we now know it’s not just rhetoric. We are really not taking this problem seriously.”

A recent study conducted by the Odyssey House, which is one of the country’s biggest rehabilitation centres, found 90 percent of the residents mentioned alcohol as their first drug of intoxication at age 12 or 13.

“These days young people are out there, they’re not slinking around hiding. They are in your face, they’re drinking in public places,” said James Pitts.

Pitts said the short-term risks were obvious with about 264 people aged 15-24 dying annually due to falls, crashes, fights and other alcohol-related incidents.

“The research indicates that the earlier people start to drink, the greater likelihood they will develop problems later in life,” Pitts said.

A study by the National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction found so-called “cool” parents, social networking, availability of supply and a shift in the traditional family structure fuelled a “hedonistic culture” of alcohol abuse.

Filed under: Medicine, World

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