Daily Archives: 27/10/2014

Would you give your under-18 alcohol?

This post follows on from the one I wrote recently about children given alcohol to drink by their parents more likely to be heavy drinkers.

It might sound a little unlikely, but astonishingly, according to a new poll by charity Drinkaware, nearly a quarter of parents admitted to supplying their own children with up to nine units of alcohol in one sitting. That’s the equivalent of four cans of beer, a bottle of wine or a third of a bottle of vodka.

They do caveat it with the fact it’s only for ‘special occasions’ – for instance during holidays (60%), or for a party (48%) – and not an everyday occurrence. But still. Giving your under-18 child a level of booze that’d leave even most hardened adults a bit woozy – is that a good idea?

Yes you read that right 9 units of alcohol in one sitting to a person underage by 25% of parents – and we wonder why they turn into heavy drinkers?!  It continues:

“Giving teenagers a gradual introduction to alcohol as part of family life removes the appeal of the forbidden – but too much, too often can lead to habitual, rather than binge drinking, which in the longer term, can be very damaging,” she added.

“The most important thing parents can do is talk to their teens about drinking.”

Underage drinking damages chidlrens’ health, both now and in the future. As a starting point; the liver.  “You might think that only lifelong alcoholics get liver disease, but regularly drinking too much can increase a young person’s chances of damaging their liver,” says Drinkaware.  So much so, that earlier this year, a newspaper investigation revealed two 17-year-olds, an 18-year-old and two 19-year-olds had been treated for alcohol-related liver disease in UK hospitals over the last three years.

Then there’s the impact on underdeveloped brains. Drinking during this time can impact on memory, reactions and attention span, according to Drinkaware.  Paula Lavis, co-ordinator policy and campaigns at the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition said: “There is good scientific evidence to suggest that young people under 15 should not drink alcohol. And young people aged 15-17 should drink infrequently and no more than once a week.  “This is because young people are still developing both in terms of their body and their brain, and alcohol can have a negative impact on this.”

Elaine Hindal, chief executive of Drinkaware said: “The average amount some parents are providing is equivalent to a whole bottle of wine, and that is more than enough to get a 15-year-old drunk.  “No parent wants to think of their child out on their own being drunk and vulnerable, but effectively, that is what we could be facilitating by giving alcohol as a reward.  It is illegal for parents to purchase alcohol on behalf of someone under 18. Worse still, it normalises a culture of excessive drinking among young people.”

The thing that I find staggering is that we won’t go to our GP and talk about our alcohol consumption but when asked by the industry charity we are honest about how much we give our kids.  What is that about?  Is it bragging?  Is it mis-education?  I can only guess that those 25% of parents are heavy drinkers themselves because you would not think it acceptable to give someone an amount that you would not consider normal  to drink yourself.  I genuinely don’t understand – what are your thoughts?