This puts Ireland just behind Austria (40.5pc) at the top of the 194 countries studied and well ahead of our neighbours in Britain (28pc). Positively however, Irish research also published last year, indicated a decrease in the number of our adolescents drinking.
The Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) Ireland Trends Report 1998-2010 showed there was a 1pc decrease between 1998 and 2010 – 29.3pc to 28.3pc – in the number of children who had ever been drunk.
However, interestingly, that reduction was due to less boys getting drunk (34.8pc down to 29.7pc), while there was an increase in the number of girls who had been drunk during that period – 24pc up to 26.8pc.
A spokesman for AAI said that in order to address the alcohol consumption of our teenagers it is futile to just “point the finger” at them. “When it comes to drinking, young people are, in many ways, a product of their environment and we have created an environment for them that is saturated with alcohol. We have normalised heavy drinking.”
Ms Fortune says adults play a vital role in changing how our young people relate to alcohol.
“Parents can help by being aware of how they relate to alcohol and how much alcohol is in the house. Talk openly to your children about alcohol, about what is and isn’t OK, talk about limits and boundaries and how to keep themselves safe.
“Be aware of whose house they are going to most often and get to know those parents and get to know the rules in that house.
“Be really open and say, ‘bring your friends over, I’d like to get to know them,’ and be the one that can be an influence and a positive go-to,” advised Ms Fortune.
And the psychotherapist believes one piece of advice is essential: “Make sure your teenager knows, that no matter what goes wrong when they may be out or however bad the situation can get, that they can call you.”
For more information on where to get help for alcohol abuse, contact your local HSE office or visit drugs.ie.
Case Study Aiseiri helped me get sober
‘I started drinking when I was 11 years old. A grandparent had died and there were cousins a bit older than me. I had a lot of feelings of loss and hurt, so when they were drinking on the sly I joined in. It didn’t become a big problem until I was about 13.
I’d say I was going to the cinema, but instead I’d be waiting outside the off licence with mates for someone to buy us a few cans or a flagon of cider. I lied to my parents a lot and I was good at hiding it.
I remember when I was about 16 a friend invited me up to watch the rugby with a few cans. I arrived with a box of Budweiser, and was half shocked to see them with three or four cans each. I remember thinking “what’s the point of that?”. Friends would ask me, why can’t you just have one or two and enjoy yourself, but I had to drink to get annihilated, never for fun.
When I was 18, I was in deep, physically and mentally. My parents knew there was something wrong, but I was never home and when I was, I was in bed. I was barely 10st at 6ft 2in, was in serious debt and was alienating all my family and friends. I was in deep despair, self-harming and I eventually broke down to my parents and said I couldn’t do it anymore.
I really wanted to get clean, I was going to go in to Aiseiri for six weeks. In the past I’d been willing to give up some parts of my lifestyle and not others, but this time I really wanted to stop. The staff were so supportive and taught me so much – about my triggers, the people I’d been spending time with, dangerous situations for me to be in. They helped me figure out why I was drinking, and how I could stop.
I’m now 22, nearly four years sober. The after-care for two years was really important because it’s easy to stay clean when you’re in treatment – it’s afterwards that’s tough, but I was able to phone them if I needed to.
The first year was especially tough because I had to delete my Facebook and change my phone number, basically give up my old life and friends, and it was quite isolating. The release isn’t like in the movies! But it was totally necessary, and now life is absolutely brilliant. I’m working with my father, have a great relationship with my family and I’m genuinely happy.”
I’m really impressed with both Scotland and Ireland’s tackling of this issue head on. Historically and culturally alcohol has been a large part of their heritage and so it is coming to a head sooner for them. Have no doubt though that we will follow if things don’t change and more isn’t done to counter the prevailing attitude towards alcohol in this country too. What are your thoughts – are we already there and I’m in denial?
PS Would you mind adding your voice to this survey too? I have 🙂
We invite you to complete this questionnaire which will enable us to map consumers’ opinions on the topic. Results will feed into RARHA work and will contribute to the discussion on how to communicate information about alcohol-related risks. This survey is carried out through the European Union Joint Action on Reducing Alcohol Related Harm (RARHA) bringing together expert organisations in public health from 30 European countries | EuroCare, Belgium