Alcohol poisoning in children on the rise

More than 300 children have been admitted to hospital in Northern Ireland for alcohol poisoning in the last six years
More than 300 children have been admitted to hospital in Northern Ireland for alcohol poisoning in the last six years, the BBC has learned. The number of people aged under-18 is up almost a fifth since 2013, despite a 40% drop in overall admissions. In 2013, 1,389 people in Northern Ireland were treated for having taken a toxic level of alcohol. By 2017, that number had fallen to 838, but there was no reduction in the average number of children admitted. Last year, 53 under-18s were admitted to hospitals in Northern Ireland – up from 45 in 2013. The findings for Northern Ireland are contrary to those in a recent World Health Organization report which charts a dramatic drop in drinking among adolescents in England. The study, published in September, reported that 65% of 16-17 year olds said they drank alcohol, down from 88% in 2001. Among those aged 8-12 years, the proportion of children who had taken an alcoholic drink fell from 25% in 2002 to 4% in 2016, and among 11-15 year-olds, the figures fell from 61% in 2003 to 38% in 2014. The NHS defines alcohol poisoning as the consumption of a toxic amount of alcohol, usually over a short period of time – binge drinking. In the most severe cases, it can lead to coma, brain damage and death. Symptoms include confusion, vomiting and seizures.
Fra Stone, from the Community Drugs Programme, believes Northern Ireland’s unhealthy relationship with drink must change. “Alcohol is part of everyday life, we are bombarded by alcohol advertisements everywhere we go, and it is portrayed as a fun thing to do,” he said. “Young people witness their parents and older members of their family drinking at home from a very young age, so it is seen as acceptable

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