Battling The Binge

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Now we have begun to get to grips with stopping the nation smoking and turning our attention to obesity, alcohol abuse must be the next big issue to have health chiefs scratching their heads for a solution.

The tragic rail death of Roddy Stewart, just before his 17th birthday this week, brings in to sharp focus the way teenagers treat alcohol.

There are few who abstain and many are binge drinkers from an early age.

Recent figures released under Freedom of Information for the Highlands and Islands show 61 under-18s were lifted by Northern Constabulary in 2007 for public drunkenness. In 2006 it was 49.

Although the full details of how the schoolboy came to be hit by a train on the rail line after a pre-birthday celebration with friends are yet to come out, his father admits drink was undoubtedly a factor in his death.

The young lad did not want to say "No" to people, according to his father.

"He would go along with the social convention and if that meant going out to celebrate his forthcoming birthday with friends then he would do it. Inevitably, at that age, alcohol is involved at some stage," said the former policeman.

And, that must be one of the key messages to try to hammer home to young people — saying no is not uncool and neither is knowing when to stop.

Roddy did nothing wrong with the peer pressure and social conventions currently circulating in our society.

But, until we built into our psyche, at the youngest age, the health and social consequences of continually overindulging in alcohol, the results will become apparent as young men and women start showing up on statistics later in life.

The number of people in the UK dying from alcohol-related problems is continuing to rise.

Office for National Statistics figures show there were 13.4 alcohol-related deaths per 100,000 population in 2006 — up from 12.9 in 2005.

The mortality rate in men was more than twice the rate for females with the overall death rate almost doubling from that in 1991.

It appears that, for certain younger people who have been drinking heavily for most of their lives, the consequences are beginning to show themselves at ever earlier stages.

Parents also have a responsibility to drive home the message — even if it appears young people are not listening.

A top Ross-shire police officer recently said he was aghast at parents turning up to demand that alcohol confiscated from teenagers be returned, saying many were grateful their youngsters were not turning to drugs.

He explained youngsters are often put under pressure to turn up to a party or gathering with a bottle and what happens is they pinch supplies from the home.

The issue should be tackled from a number of angles — more expensive alcohol could help and, as flagged up by Scotland's largest licensing forum, made up of NHS and local government officials, the police, drinks trade and retail lobbying groups, minimum pricing for drinks could be introduced.

This would allow for a bottom price to be set for alcohol in pubs and clubs.

According to a report by Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems, raising alcohol prices by 10 per cent would save the lives of 479 men and 265 women every year.

We should get behind Alcohol Counselling Inverness (ACI) which, as we highlight today, is trying to raise awareness about the risks associated with drinking alcohol.

It has called on Highland Council to provide funding from its education budget so its programme of talks can be rolled out to every school in the area.

Although, we know the council already tackles it through personal and social education.

It would be a step in the right direction.

source: Inverness Courier