Binge drinking a hard habit to break

  • Post category:World News

Australians who binge drink as teenagers continue to drink at dangerous levels in adulthood, a study has found.

From The Sydney Morning Herald

More than 90 per cent of men who drink alcohol to excess as teens keep doing so throughout their 20s, said lead author Professor Louisa Degenhardt, from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of NSW.

‘This shows that binge drinking in adolescence isn’t just an experimental or passing phase,” she said.

The research, published in the British Medical Journal Open, is based on a study of nearly 2000 Victorian teenagers aged between 14 to 17. They were followed and assessed nine times over 15 years, starting in 1992.

As teenagers, 52 per cent of boys and 34 per cent of girls reported consuming five or more drinks on a single occasion within the past week.

The overwhelming majority – more than 90 per cent of boys and 70 per cent of girls – were highly likely to binge at the same levels, or more, as young adults.

”Even more than tobacco and cannabis use, alcohol is the teenage health-risk behaviour that persists,” said co-author Professor George Patton, of Melbourne’s Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.

Researchers found that extremely risky binge drinking – defined as more than 20 drinks for males and 11 for females – was also more common than thought.

”This definition of heavy bingeing is the equivalent of a bottle of whisky for boys or bottle and half of wine for girls. This is drinking which is going to cause a whole host of problems in later life, including liver disease and brain damage,” Professor Patton said.

Almost half of the boys and one third of girls reported extreme binge drinking in either adolescence or in their 20s. Of these, more than 40 per cent first started heavy binge drinking when they were teenagers.

”Those kids who drink to the point of becoming unconscious or vomiting have an ever higher risk of continuing bingeing,” he said. ”They are not learning from their experiences.”

But the study found that those who didn’t binge drink as teenagers weren’t protected from starting in later life.

Seven out of 10 males who had not reported bingeing as teenagers did so as adults.

The director of the Public Health Advocacy Institute at Curtin University, Professor Mike Daube, said the research confirms ”frightening” levels of binge drinking that ”no one is doing much about”.

He said easy access, lack of education and exposure to alcohol promotion are the keys drivers that lead to excessive alcohol consumption.

An ambitious federal government plan to curb alcohol misuse has failed to achieve almost 90 per cent of its goals, an evaluation by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education has found.

The 2009 National Preventative Health Taskforce Strategy identified 32 alcohol-specific goals but only four have been achieved in the past four years.

There has been no progress at all on 10 goals and only partial progress on 18 others.

The foundation’s chief executive Michael Thorn, said the assessment found very little had been done to tackle the incidence of risky drinking. ”It reflects a lack of effort and a falling away of leadership,” he said. Some of the goals which have not been addressed related to children and drinking, including embedding the preventative health message in schools and universities.