Numbers obtained by the BBC indicate that accident and emergency departments in Northern Ireland treated 500 children last year for being drunk.
Six children who were under the age of 11 were included in that number. The Belfast A&E department had the largest number of cases at 132, but it’s estimated that each A&E treats around 100 children a year.
The numbers just account for teenagers whose only reason for being at the A&E department was alcohol and do not include individuals who were at the A&E because they were injured while drinking.
“There are a lot of other issues that go along with alcohol intoxication in adolescence such as injury, hazardous behavior, and it makes them more likely to be the victim of a crime, makes them more likely to perpetrate a crime, such as a violent crime, or even be the victim of a sexual assault, for example,” said Dr. Russell McLaughlin.
In North Belfast, Mercy College conducts a Public Health Agency (PHA) program for students.
“I never thought you could die from drinking too much, but learning about how alcohol can affect your body and all the problems associated with alcohol – it really is dangerous and you have to be careful when you’re using it,” said 18-year-old student Rachel Osborne.
Student Chloe Hastings was surprised about what constitutes binge drinking. “The fact that eight drinks is classified as binge drinking, I was really shocked at that, because a lot of young people I know would go out on a night out and have double that amount,” Hastings said. “They don’t realize that they’re classified as binge drinking.”
Owen O’Neill, of the PHA, said its latest surveys have shown some disturbing trends.
“Between 50 percent and 60 percent of young people will have drunk alcohol between the ages of 11 and 16,” O’Neill said. “Of that percentage over half have been drunk on at least one occasion and the drunkenness is the piece that we’re most concerned about.”