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Underage Drinking. The Facts.
How many?

One in five pupils, aged 11 to 15, have consumed alcohol in the past week. Almost half of 15-year-olds have had a drink in the past week compared to three cent of 11-year-olds.

Seventeen per cent usually drink alcohol at least once a week.

One per cent of both boys and girls drink almost every day.

How much?

Average weekly consumption by pupils is 10.5 units. It was 5.3 units in 1990. Boys who drunk alcohol in the past week downed an average of 11.5 units compared with an average of 9.5 units by girls.

What do they drink?

Beer, lager and cider are most popular with boys. Girls drink mainly spirits and alcopops.

How they obtain alcohol?

Half of alcohol drunk by pupils in the past month came form parents and the home. Almost one third were given alcohol by friends and one in five pupils asked someone else to buy it.

Only one in ten pupils try to buy it themselves from a shop, pub, bar or club. Where they drink?

60 per cent of pupils who drink do so at home or at someone else's home. One third drink at parties with friends.

One quarter drink on the streets or in parks.

The consequences?

Almost half who consumed alcohol in the past week got drunk. One third deliberately tried.

Girls who had consumed alcohol in the past week were more likely than boys to have felt ill or sick or to have vomited. (One in five girls compared to one in ten boys). About one in ten boys had a fight.

A similar number either lost money or belongings or damaged clothes or belongings. Source: Drug Use, Smoking, Drinking among Young People, England, an annual survey of 9,000 secondary school pupils.

Office of National Statistics for NHS and The Information Centre for health and social care.

Signs and symptoms of teen drinking for parents

How can you tell if your child is using alcohol? It is difficult because changes in mood or attitudes, unusual temper outbursts, changes in sleeping habits and changes in hobbies or other interests are common in teenagers.

Watch out for:

  • Changes in friends
  • Negative changes in schoolwork, missing school, or declining grades
  • Signs of depression, withdrawal, carelessness with grooming or hostility.
  • Declining interest in sports or other activities
  • Increased secrecy about possessions or activities
  • Subtle changes in conversations with friends, eg more secretive, using coded language
  • Increase in borrowing money
  • Bottles of eye drops, which may be used to mask bloodshot eyes or dilated pupils
  • New use of mouthwash or breath mints to cover up the smell of alcohol

Drinking: The law.

Age limits:

  • Five and up: May consume alcohol at home with adult supervision.
  • Under-16s: Can go into a pub, but must be with an adult and stay in the garden or family room.
  • 16-17: May purchase beer, wine and cider in an eating area on licensed premises as long as it is with a table meal.
  • Any age: No person may buy or attempt to buy intoxicating liquor for consumption in a bar by a person under the age of 18. The maximum fine is £1,000.
  • Offences of drunkenness can result in a criminal record. Being drunk is no excuse to committing any crime.
  • Police have powers to confiscate alcohol from under-18s caught in possession in public and can call their parents.
  • Buying alcohol for those not old enough to buy it themselves could result in a fine of up to £5,000.


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