Binge Drinking…

2 06 2008

Everyone does it. Don’t they? It is, after all, fun, sociable, and relaxing. People will consume alcohol, and the problem will probably never go away. The problems I have with binge drinking are age related ones. There has been a lot of talk over the past week or so on BULS about this issue of drinking, especially young people drinking. Two people advocate allowing young people into pubs, thereby taking them off the street, and putting into a more controlled environment, where the amount of alcohol is regulated and the bar staff have the right to refuse drinks. Whilst I can see why they think this is a good idea, I hold the opinion that this ‘solution’ doesn’t really solve anything, it’s more a sweep-it-under-the-rug tactic.

There are two problems here as I see it. Firstly, we need to work out how young is too young. Once we have established that then we need to work out what can be done about it.

Firstly then, at what age is it acceptable for young people to drink? A report by Positive Futures, cited in this article, says that 42% of the sample began drinking under the age of 13. I am sure that this is too young. In the UK it is well known that you can order alcohol with a meal in a restaurant when you are 16. This is therefore an indicator that it is thought that 16 is old enough to allow people to drink. As long as they are in a regulated environment. The bracket therefore is just three years. If 13 is too young, and 16 is old enough, what about 14 or 15? Personally I would suggest that 16 is the first time you can be considered old enough to drink, therefore meaning anyone under 16 is too young, and should not be drinking.

In 2008’s report into the Statistics of Alcohol, it was found that in 2006 (the last available information) the average amount drunk in the week (by those who had drunk) prior to the survey by people aged 11-15 was 11.4 units. The survey also showed that people with emotional problems were more likely to drink. The survey highlighted that of those who had obtained alcohol, 26% had got it from friends, 23% from parents, and 20% had got someone else to buy it. Only 7% had bought it themselves. There were links found to truancy and drug use. 56% thought it was “ok to try drinking alcohol to see what it’s like” and 36% thought it fine to drink once a week. Of these, 12% of 11 year olds thought this to be the case, and 59% of 15 year olds. Also, interestingly, 53% thought their families wouldn’t mind them drinking “as long as they didn’t drink too much”.

Obviously this is only half the picture, the report does indicate that only 21% admitted to drinking alcohol in the previous week, and those who said they had never touched alcohol had risen to 45%. This latter figure, I believe does indicate some success. It does though mean that 55% of 11-15 year olds have drunk alcohol.

So why do the young people drink in the first place. I think there are three elements to it. The first is the rebellious nature of drinking under-age, coupled with peer pressure. The second is the feeling it gives to you, a sense of enjoyment, freedom and fun. Finally I would suggest that there is also an element of nothing better to do. I think these are all reasonably self explanatory, and won’t go any further into them.

What therefore needs to be done is to combat these issues. As it is nigh on impossible to solve the first two, it is only the third that I think can be dealt with, the article cited above also indicates that 46% felt better diversions were needed. That is, the young people need something to do other than drink. Whilst this will not eradicate the problem, it will, I feel, help some of the problems. Youth clubs or sports clubs would play a big part in this I think. Occupying their spare time with something other than drink is the best option.

I do not though buy into the idea that simply allowing them to go into pubs will solve problems. It is too simplistic to suggest that putting the kids into a controlled environment will go some way to solving the problems relating to young alcohol abuse. 75% of young people admitted to either getting violent or into trouble as a result of drinking. That is not an insignificant number. The article does not go into detail of where this violence or trouble takes place, most, I would expect would be on the streets, some in the home. I am sure this would continue regardless of whether they had been drinking under supervision or not, as, lets face it, they problems start when they are already drunk. If they have been refused service at a bar, it means they are drunk. Consequently they leave the pub where they were supervised and move back out onto the street, or wherever they are familiar with. Then, it is likely, they will resume causing the problems again.

I maintain the solution does not involve simply making it easier to get hold of drink. The solution is a longer term one with far wider implications. We need to do something to engage the young people, improving social relations between age groups is needed. Take them off the streets is easier said than done, but putting them into pubs? No thanks. Putting them into youth clubs, sports clubs, or indeed any other clubs, I think, is perhaps the best option.

This therefore means that there needs to be an improvement in these facilities, and this will, naturally take time. I think though, that this will be worth it in the long term. In the short term, well, I know it is easy to say, but more policing of young people is needed. Give sellers the abilities to refuse to sell to someone if they suspect it will be given to young people. And perhaps even make it more expensive to get hold of alcohol.

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4 responses

3 06 2008
A fruitful debate « Birmingham University Labour Students

[…] fruitful debate Posted on 3 June, 2008 by tommarley The Cowfieldhas picked up on this drinking issue I am relentlessly plugging. WIth some pertinent research he […]

3 06 2008
brigidjones

“Give sellers the abilities to refuse to sell to someone if they suspect it will be given to young people.”

Tut tut, were you even listening to the guys at V? By law they must refuse anyway.

3 06 2008
Luke_D

I wasn’t listening the second time around 😛

In all honesty I presumed they must, but how often is this enforced? That stats above show that there are still shop keepers who do not refuse…

2 09 2008
Drinking, a new picture… « The Cowfield

[…] while yesterday, I was impressed with the current concern they have with young drinking problems. I wrote about this some time ago […]

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