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01/08/2007

'Pre-Loading' Trend 'Fuels Rise In Drinking'

Teenagers are drinking heavily discounted alcohol before going out in a trend known as 'pre-loading', a charity has warned.

Addaction, a specialist drug and alcohol treatment agency, said that it was concerned that the trend was driving a rise in alcohol-fuelled violence and an epidemic of related health problems.

Alcohol-related hospital admissions among young people have continued to rise, increasing by a third in the last ten years.

Addaction said that staff at the charity's rehab centres for young people were seeing an increase in young people, particularly 14-16-year-olds, drinking cheap alcohol at home or in public places before hitting bars and clubs where drinks can be as much as three times as expensive.

The charity said that around half of all Britain's drink sales are made at the six major supermarkets and off-sales promotions have been shown to increase sales by 25%.

Addaction said that the difference in price between discounted alcohol and premium price branded drinks sold in licensed venues has been identified as one of the reasons behind the growth in pre-loading.

The charity is now calling for off-sale promotions in supermarkets to be curbed and for parents and schools to take a greater role in educating young people about the risks involved in heavy drinking.

Carmel Swan, manager of Addaction's centre for young people in Derby, said: "We are seeing younger teens especially who cannot afford drinks in bars even at happy hour or who might not get served, sharing a bottle of £6 vodka before going clubbing or going out to see friends. Some young people have admitted to drinking at least half a large bottle and sometimes more, before hitting the town.

"That way they are in happy, silly, giggly and sometimes aggressive mode the instant they walk into a club. Unfortunately this leads to all sorts of problems such as accidents, violence and particularly for girls, unsafe sex. In many cases, the damage has been done before they've even left home."

Rebecca Cheshire, Manager of Addaction's services for young people, said: "Young people drinking at home before going out is nothing new, but it is excessive amounts being drunk and the younger ages at which young people are drinking which is concerning us now.

"Tackling off-trade promotions and under-age sales along won't work as we know that many young people are getting drink from relatives and friends. We have to involve parents in education around alcohol and encourage them to have an honest dialogue with their children about what they are drinking. Young people need to know how to manage drinking and enjoy socialising without putting their safety at risk."

(KMcA/SP)


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