25% of 14 to 19 year olds put themselves at risk of alcohol related harm each month
70% of 14 to 19 year olds drink alcohol despite being underage*

The NSW Ambulance Service has figures indicating that 3 children a day in NSW get so drunk that they need the services of an ambulance.

The under-18s treated between July 2009 and June 2010 made up about 10% of the overall numbers treated for alcohol sickness, a spokesman for the service said.

In Western Australia the McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth (MCAAY) tries to reduce levels of drinking, harmful drinking and alcohol problems among young people.

Director of MCAAY, Professor Mike Daube said the figures, (not including call outs indirectly related to alcohol consumption) were only the ”tip of the iceberg”.

“It’s even more worrying than it looks, given that it is only the very worst cases – those children who are utterly, disastrously drunk and at immediate risk,” he added “What kind of a society are we turning into where children under 12 are taken to hospital in an ambulance because of their drinking?”

Professor Daube said the government should urgently implement the recommendations of its National Preventative Health Taskforce which were released in May 2010.

The Taskforce recommendations included reducing harm from alcohol and emphasisising fiscal, regulatory and social marketing measures. It also placed a strong emphasis on changing the drinking culture in Australia, particularly the culture around binge drinking and on licensing.
Paul Dillon, author of Teenagers, Alcohol and Drugs and Generation Next speaker said “Alcohol, like any other drug taken in large amounts, can lead to an overdose situation. ‘Binge drinking’ or ‘drinking to get drunk’ is often the cause for alcohol poisoning, particularly among young people. At very high blood alcohol levels, a person loses consciousness and goes into a coma. People do die due to alcohol poisoning”.

The president of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, Sally McCarthy, said “some of these kids end up having serious injuries that change their whole lives,” she said. “It is extremely disheartening and upsetting for staff.”

John Toumbourou, a chair in health psychology at Deakin University, said “If they use alcohol at younger ages it increases the likelihood they will end up having problems with alcohol in middle or later school”.
*Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. 2007 National Drug Strategy Household Survey: first results. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare; 2008.

Writer Helen Splarn. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha.
Source: Sydney Morning Herald. McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth (MCAAY)