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09 March, 2014

Children as Young as 12 Experimenting with Alcohol

Young people are experimenting with drugs and alcohol earlier than in previous decades. The average age of first using marijuana is fourteen while alcohol begins earlier at aged twelve. St. Patrick’s Day is a day for joining in the national holiday festivities however Paul Gilligan CEO at St. Patrick’s Hospital says “There is a social culture of alcohol use on days like St. Patrick’s Day and unfortunately many teenagers engage in excessive drinking during the festivities. It is vital that parents are vigilant and aware of the dangers of excessive alcohol use by young people”.

The European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Drugs (ESPAD 2009) a study on Alcohol and other Drugs among European 15 – 16-year-olds found that 20% of Irish teenagers had used marijuana, which was twice the European average and 78% of Irish students had been drinking during the past 12 months. Dr Sarah Buckley, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at St. Patrick’s says “Teenage recreational alcohol use can lead to binge drinking. Research has shown that under-age binge drinkers are seven times more likely to have used illicit drugs in the past than teenagers who do not binge drink.

Medical Director Prof. Jim Lucey says “There has been an increase in alcohol consumption of 17% over the last 10 years, much higher than any other country in the EU. There has also been an increase in alcohol related deaths, liver disease and alcohol related diseases/injuries. The statistics on the increases in alcohol consumption are quite frightening yet culturally we are taught to relate alcohol with enjoyment. Many, especially our young people, feel you have to be drunk to enjoy a celebration. This must change.” Paul Gilligan continued Adolescence is a critical time for social and personal development. St. Patrick’s Day is an important day in the social calendar of many young people and it’s important that parents keep lines of communication with their teenagers open. At this time of year it is important to be attentive to young people’s celebratory plans.”