WITH thousands of young people receiving exam results this fortnight, parents across Sussex are being urged to talk to their children about the risks of binge drinking.
Thousands of teenagers will receive their A-level results this Thursday (August 18), and many more will collect their GCSE results next Thursday (August 25).
NHS Sussex is calling for parents to be aware of what their children are doing to celebrate and warn them of the dangers of underage drinking, too much alcohol, and especially of the serious danger of combining with drugs.
A study by Drinkaware at exam results time last year showed that more than a third of parents said they would prefer their children to get alcohol from them rather than an unknown source, and a fifth said they bought alcohol for their children so they could keep track of how much they drank.
However a third of parents of 16 and 17 year olds said they have no idea what their child gets up to when they are drinking.
Further results showed that two fifths (41%) knew that their child has had a bad drinking experience. One in five parents are aware their child has been involved in an accident (20%) or had unprotected sex (21%) when drinking and eight out of 10 (79%) know their child has been sick*.
Sue Carmichael, Public health lead for Alcohol on behalf of NHS Sussex, said: “Lots of young people will want to mark the end of their exams with a celebration and we hope they do, but what we want to avoid is young people putting them at risk of harm because of how they celebrate.
“Young people being admitted to A&E because they have drank too much alcohol, or getting into a fight after too much drink is not how the majority of young people would want to celebrate. Yet that is what can happen.
“Parents have a huge influence on their children’s attitude to alcohol, often without realising it.
“Although it may not seem like it sometimes, research has shown that teenagers would rather get advice on drinking from their mum and dad than anyone else.
“So we are asking parents across Sussex to take this opportunity and time of celebration to make sure their children know how to avoid the dangers of too much alcohol.”
In West Sussex, the number of 14 -15 year olds who say they binge drink has fallen during the last three years. In addition the percentage of pupils who reported never drinking to get drunk also rose from 51.7% to 56.1%.
“However many young people are still drinking alcohol, with at least 10% of Year 10 pupils drinking alcohol regularly. For boys, this is mainly beer and cider; while for girls it is mainly spirits and alcopops.
Sue continued: “We know that the younger someone starts drinking, the greater the impact that alcohol will have on their health and wellbeing in the future.
“Drinking regularly to excess means teenagers are more at risk of developing serious health problems, including liver disease and cancers as they get older. In the short term risks include violence, injury and those to their sexual health.
“Everyone has a part to play, parents, friends, bar staff, retailers – we can all set a good example so that young people learn how to drink responsibly and sensibly.”
Advice for parents includes:
• Be a positive role model. Adults should drink within the daily recommended guidelines (3-4 units a day for men, 2-3 units for women).
• Introduce the topic early - the average age for young people to have their first alcoholic drink is 13.
• Don’t make alcohol a taboo subject - ensure your child can talk freely with you about alcohol. If you’re not sure how to start the conversation, soap operas or news stories can provide a useful trigger.
• If your child does get drunk try not to overreact - talk to them about it the next morning: listen to what they have to say and try to understand their situation.