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The children of 12 in hospital for alcoholism


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The children of 12 in hospital for alcoholism

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By FIONA MacRAE - More by this author Β» Last updated at 00:08am on 19th February 2007 commentIconSm.gif Comments (1)

kiddrinking180207_228x334.jpgSome children are so addicted it is actually dangerous for them to stop drinking straight away

In 2005, hospitals treated 5,717 under-16s for alcohol poisoning and other drink-related illnesses - nearly 20 per cent more than in the previous year.

Girls outnumbered boys in every part of the country, heightening concern about the spread of the 'ladette' culture.

The North West of England has the worst underage drinking problem, with 25 drunken youngsters admitted to hospital each week. Most of these are girls.

Alarmingly the latest NHS statistics may only hint at the true scale of the problem.

Professor Mark Bellis, the Government's leading public health advisor on alcohol, said: 'Hospital statistics grossly under-estimate that number of young people drinking alcohol in ways that will damage their health.

'It is only the tip of the iceberg. Many more children are admitted for problems not recorded as alcohol. The admissions include everything from being involved in violence to teenage pregnancies.

'For every one youth admitted due to alcohol consumption there are many more whose health suffers through excessive alcohol consumption.'

Prof Bellis, of the Centre for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University added: 'We are in danger of creating a generation permanently scarred by alcohol.'

Doctors warned that youngsters as young as 12 are being diagnosed as alcoholics and that cirrhosis of the liver - an alcohol-induced problem usually found in older adults - is being discovered in teenagers.

Government figures show that three teenagers have been diagnosed with cirrhosis since 2001.

Professor Ian Gilmore, a liver specialist and president of the Royal College of Physicians, said: 'I think we are going to see big increases in people in their 20s and 30s being diagnosed with liver cirrhosis.'

Campaigners say the problem is being exacerbated by cheap drinks offers and the promotion of sweet, colourful drinks such as alcopops.

They added that more needs to be done to help young drinkers.

Hayley Nash, of Walsall, is among the young alcoholics.

Diagnosed at the age of 12, at the height of her addiction she got through eight cans of lager and a litre bottle of vodka a day.

Her drinking – paid for by pocket money and a paper round – spiralled out of control as she tried to cope with the death of her grandmother.

β€˜I used to drink alone in the cemetery – and to be honest, I just wanted to drink myself to death,’ she said.

Hayley suffered from high blood pressure, vitamin deficiency, depression and severe liver problems and missed two critical years of schooling.

Now aged 16, she is being weaned off alcohol at home, cutting down the number of cans she drinks by one every three days.

β€˜Sometimes I think alcohol has ruined my life,’ she said.

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