Figures published in the Irish Times show 64 children under 18 years were treated for alcohol-related issues across Dublin’s three main children’s hospitals last year, up from 51 in 2015. The figures represent only day and in-patient admissions to National Children’s Hospital Tallaght, Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumlin and Temple Street.
Drinkaware Chief Medical Officer, Dr Liam Twomey said: “These figures should not be taken lightly, particularly when you consider that A&E admissions are not included. This would put the real figure at a far higher number, which should be cause for concern.
The reality is that children under the age of 18 should not be drinking at all. Educating our young people about alcohol and the dangers associated with underage drinking must become a priority. The long-term impacts of drinking from a young age are far too devastating to ignore. The brain continues to develop throughout childhood, the teenage years and right up to the early 20s. Alcohol damages the areas of the brain responsible for attention, learning, memory and concentration and if introduced during this time, it can have a serious impact on long-term brain function. Underage alcohol use is also linked to poor school performance, attendance and higher dropout rates.
We shouldn’t expect that our young people will drink alcohol as par for the course. Our research from 2016 showed that 56% of Junior Cert students feel that they are limited in their knowledge of alcohol use while 9 out of 10 want to learn how to stay safe and alcohol-free. Through our work with parents and teachers, providing information, advice and alcohol education resources, we aim to stop our young people from drinking too early and stop our young people from drinking to excess. Ultimately we would hope to see a reduction in the number of young people admitted to hospital for alcohol-related issues. Collaborative and coordinated action on education can help to make this a reality.”
AS A PARENT, WHAT CAN I DO?
Parents are the strongest influence on a child’s attitudes towards alcohol and our research shows that young people are far more likely to follow their parents’ advice than any other group. Be empowered by this, follow our six-point action plan and open a conversation about alcohol with your children.
- Be Proactive: Discuss alcohol and its effects before it becomes a problem. Don’t wait for an alcohol-related incident to occur.
- Plan alternative Activities: Encourage sports, hobbies and social activities that keep your child active, healthy and fulfilled.
- Set Rules together: Make a Smart Agreement to agree boundaries on alcohol together.
- Lead by Example: Not only is it illegal to give alcohol to anyone under the age of alcohol, parental supply of alcohol is associated with increased risks.
- Take Notice: Talk to the parents of your child’s friends. Do you know their rules about alcohol?
- Keep Talking: Good communication is the key to building self-esteem and resilience in your child.