Thursday 28 June 2012

Kids and Alcohol

Kids and alcohol do not mix well. Underage drinking is something that has become common place and almost acceptable in our society. Week on week I go to jobs where teenagers are heavily intoxicated and are vomiting. Usually it is a case of picking them up and driving them in their vomit covered clothes to the hospital and phoning their parents. As kids get older, they see and hear about what kids in the years above them do, and being young and naive they think they can do the same. The long and the short of it is that alcohol is a drug. If it was invented today it would be illegal but there is so much money to be made from it ,and it is so engrained into our culture, that it is accepted.

Alcohol in moderation and even occasional excess is relatively harmless. We all drink, myself included, but the older we get the more able we are to control our intake. Teenagers don't have that inclination and as thus, a culture of underage binge drinking has developed. They drink in groups and the statistics of how common place it is feels somewhat of a concern. As kids get older the chance to drink alcohol grows. 10% of 12 year olds admit to drinking alcohol with friends; by 13 that figure doubles. By the age of 15 the figure is more than 50%. It is not the drinking that is the problem though; it is the amount they drink. Despite drinking less often than adults, when they do, they drink a lot more. This binge drinking comes with it potential serious health problems and even death. This culture of binge drinking spills over into the late teens and the consequences are there for all to see. Just read 'A life lost, A finger pointed' to see what I mean.

Alcohol use by young people is often made possible by adults. After all, teens can’t legally get alcohol on their own, and although I am not against the idea of giving my son a beer when he is underage, I certainly will be doing everything in my power to prevent this from happening:

"13 year old male, unconscious, vomiting, ? intoxicated"

It was the bank holiday weekend; the country was celebrating the Queen's jubilee and there was a patriotic, jovial atmosphere everywhere we went. This type of call is not at all uncommon and like I say, is usually a case of scoop up and transport. The address given was a park, again very common as it's the only place that kids can go and drink without the risk of getting caught. The problem with parks is access. Most of the time gates are locked and at 11pm the chance of a groundsman letting you in is zero. Luckily, one of the more sober ones of the group, a girl, was waiting at the entrance for us. We grabbed our bags and headed into the dark. In the distance we could just about see the silhouettes of about 9 or 10 of them, the glow from cigarettes clearly visible. 

Half of the group seemed very panicked, the other half were too drunk to care. The boy was lying on the floor, covered in vomit and was indeed unconscious. Within a few seconds it was clear he wasn't breathing properly. His airway was full of vomit so we turned him onto his side to clear it. As it seeped out onto the floor he took in a gargled intake of air.  We tried our best to rouse him but to no effect. We loaded him onto the bed and rushed off to the ambulance. His friends (or most of them) followed. In a teacheresque tone I demanded the phone number for his parents. I think they realised the seriousness of the situation and within a few seconds I was handed a ringing phone. The boy's mum answered and I gave her the low down in brief and told her where we were going. To be honest, she didn't really seem that bothered.

On the ambulance we started using suction to keep his airway clear. No sooner as we had cleared it more would appear. He was hypothermic and his blood pressure was in his boots. It transpired he had drunk an entire bottle of vodka and 3 litres of cider. That is enough to cause the most hardened of adults to be unconscious, no wonder he was in such a state. We blued him into hospital where we went into the resuscitation room. The doctors and nurses flocked around him and within a few minutes fluids were up and he was 'safe'. 

On this occasion he was just another statistic of a hospitalised underage drinker. On this occasion he wasn't one of the statistics of underage deaths due to alcohol. He was so intoxicated he was unable to look after his airway. He had aspirated on vomit and realistically been only a few minutes away from death. Just imagine receiving that phone call. It's no longer a case of 'pah... kids!' The consequences of binge drinking are very real and if not controlled can lead to a life of alcohol dependency and minimal job prospects. 

I don't want to be holier than thou. I spend many a night from the age of 14 in my local park drinking White Lightening, Hooch and 20/20 or Aftershock. I remember vomiting; I remember waking up on the grass and not knowing where I was. I look back now and yes, in our culture it is part of growing up, but I also know I didn't know the dangers of it. I have no memory of being educated about the dangers of alcohol nor do I remember lengthy lectures from my parents about it. That is probably because my generation was the first where binge drinking became 'the thing'. Now everyone knows about it, and knows about its dangers, it is our responsibility to ensure kids are made fully aware of the consequences of their actions. I have never taken Ecstasy in my life. Why? Because I vividly remember the campaign following the death of Leah Betts. The media was all over it and that scare mongering did its job. Maybe the tragic death of Daniel Cripps could have the same effect on our kids' ideals of what drinking is all about?

Tonight at 8pm on Twitter the will be a discussion about Kids and Alcohol run by Tots100 (@tots100) and in conjunction with Drink Aware (@drinkaware). Read here for more details and come and join in under the hashtag #kidsandalcohol 

For more information on the problems of drinking and the resources available for parents and professions see the Drink Aware website.


  1. I remember well the arrogance of youth and the feeling of invincibility only the young (and stupid) cultivate. I thank my lucky stars I didn't come to any serious harm when I was a young 'un.

    It's not just our health we risk when we get incapacitated. We become vulnerable. I once fell asleep on a bench in a town centre after a heavy night. Another time I fell asleep on a train, and once I fell backwards through a bush into someone's front garden! Booze impairs our judgement and makes stupid ideas seem wonderful.

    I feel really sorry for the emergency services. I think the longer licensing hours were a mistake. It might have been a cynical move by the Government, thinking of all the extra tax money they'd get from pubs and clubs being open longer, but I'd love to know if the extra strain on the police and ambulance services have made it worth it. Somehow, I doubt it.

    Hats off to you guys, sincerely.

  2. My partners little sister was found yesterday in the local shopping centre she had drank 3 litres of md 20/20. She was taking to the hospital and left to sleep it off however they are now testing her bone marrow do you know why they would do this. She is only 13.


  3. Thank you for the very informative post. I don't have kids yet but when I was young, my parents never fail to remind me of what alcohol abuse might do to me and so I wanted my kids to be as sober as I am.


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