Saturday, March 8, 2008

Teenagers suffering alcohol-style health problems

Teenagers are suffering health problems normally seen in long-term heavy drinkers.

In the last 18 months, the number of people admitted to the Royal Bolton Hospital with serious medical problems caused by alcohol has rocketed by more than 20 per cent.

And staff say people as young as 18 are being treated for conditions such as stomach ulcers and inflamed stomachs, brought on by drink.

The alcohol liaison team at the hospital, which helps problem drinkers, dealt with 76 referrals in February alone.

Just 18 months earlier the team was handling 60 referrals a month and staff say they expect numbers to keep rising.

Alcohol liaison nurse Emma Dermody said: "It amazes me how much younger people are drinking and what they think is acceptable. People need to be aware of what sensible limits are because drinking above these can be harmful."

Some patients are admitted with problems such as liver disease or alcohol withdrawal.

In other cases, staff only pick up on people's drink problems when questioning a patient treated for other complaints and then refer them on to the alcohol liaison team.

Nurses then point people in the right direction for suitable treatment in the community, such as rehab, residential detox or counselling.

A spokesman for Alcohol Concern said: "Sometimes the focus on crime and disorder is so intense that we forget a large number of people are doing themselves real long-term physical harm by drinking excessively.

"It's more crucial now than ever to ensure there are enough treatment spots to deal with problems before they become, in some cases, terminal."

Bolton Primary Care Trust has recently invested £120,000 into improving access to alcohol treatment services, cutting a six-month waiting list for treatment to less than two weeks.

Jan Hutchinson, director of public health for Bolton's PCT, admitted the figures were a concern.

She said: "People need to reflect on their own drinking and if they think they need help to contact their GP as soon as possible.

"The damage to their health might not be obvious but it will become apparent in years to come."

Chairman of Bolton Council's health scrutiny committee, Cllr Andy Morgan, is calling for more to be done to stop youngsters falling into the booze trap.

He said: "Binge drinking and alcohol-related crime continues to spiral out of control. Cheap alcohol and allowing bars to open around the clock has only served to exacerbate the problem.

"We need to radically re-think our alcohol strategy and make it harder for youngsters to get hold of alcohol."

The recommended weekly limits for men is 21 units and 14 units for women.

A unit is the equivalent to a small glass of wine or half a pint of lager.

source: Bolton News

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