Suffolk teens treated for alcoholism

TEENAGERS as young as 18 are being treated for alcoholism in Suffolk, it has emerged.

TEENAGERS as young as 18 are being treated for alcoholism in Suffolk, it has emerged.

The news was revealed as the Government unveiled a new crackdown on binge-drinking, which could include a ban on parents giving alcohol to young children at home and new laws on drinks advertising.

A leading addiction counsellor last night welcomed the new campaign, and gave an insight into how the problems were affecting youngsters in Suffolk.

Chip Somers set up the Bury St Edmunds-based addiction charity Focus 12 in 1997, and at the time it was rare to have an alcoholic seeking treatment below the age of 30.

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But he said it was now “routine” to see people in their early 20s - and one person who recently came forward for treatment was just 18 years old.

“It is out of control and it is going to cause us enormous problems in the next few years,” Mr Somers said.

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He said taking a lead from countries like France and Spain were not an option in the UK because the Continental alcohol culture had taken decades to evolve and was not something that can just be established elsewhere.

“We should be trying other things and they may have to be draconian to begin with. It often takes between eight to 10 years for somebody to realise they have a problem. It means children who frequently binge-drink are going to present themselves for treatment in their early 20s - which they are now doing.”

Currently any child aged five or over is legally allowed to try alcohol at home under their parents' supervision. The Government's review will consider whether the legal age limit should be raised, and whether new limits should be imposed on advertising.

The new guidelines for alcohol consumption among the under-18s will be worked on by the Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson.

At the launch of the plan in London, Sir Liam said: “The law at the moment says that you mustn't give alcohol to your child under five. We are going to look at the evidence very systematically and see whether it needs to be changed or strengthened.

“In the past, getting drunk was a right of passage for young people. But over the last decade or so we have moved to a situation where it's more than a right of passage. Young people often say that they drink to get drunk. That pattern of behaviour has become quite deeply ingrained.

“That behaviour pattern is undoubtedly linked to higher health risks in the medium and long term.”

Health Secretary Alan Johnson said the review could consider whether to ban drinks adverts and sponsorship from sport.

Shadow home affairs minister James Brokenshire said: “Yet again the Government mistakenly think that new laws are the answer.

“The problem is that they can't even enforce the ones they've already got. The police already have powers to disperse groups of youths and parenting orders have been available for years.

“It's breathtaking that even now they accept no responsibility for the consequences of the way they introduced 24-hour licensing. The result has been more violence on our streets late at night and hospital accident and emergency departments on the front-line picking up the pieces.”

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