Young binge drinkers risking brain damage

First published in News Daily Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Politics and business reporter

UNDER-AGE binge drinkers could be causing themselves long-term brain damage, alarming new research claims.

A major TV documentary will on Sunday look at the latest scientific research from America which shows that teen boozers are running the risk of a life of ill-health.

Doctors are now warning that unless Britain changes its attitude towards alcohol, we risk breeding a generation of alcoholics.

The BBC Panorama programme comes as the Daily Echo's Keep Kids Sober campaign is encouraging adults and parents - as the main source of alcohol for younger children - to take a more active and responsible role in teaching children about the consequences of alcohol and to think before supplying them with drink.

Aaron White, from Duke University in North Carolina, said: "The research we have so far strongly suggests that adolescents who get drunk on a regular basis in particular run the risk of damaging their brains.

"The potential is there for these effects to be irreversible because the window of opportunity for moulding the brain ends once we end our early 20s."

Dr Nick Sheron, a renowned expert on alcohol misuse and the liver, who is based at Southamp-ton University, says that there is an emerging body of literature on the subject coming from America.

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Difficult battle "It essentially says that the adolescent brain is a quite different beast from an adult's and responds to alcohol quite differently," he said.

Panorama follows one 16-year-old's difficult battle with the bottle. She thinks nothing of drinking ten to 15 units of alcohol in one night - which is more than the weekly recommended limit for an adult woman.

It reports how alcohol is now so cheap that youngsters are buying it at pocket money prices, and one third of all teenagers are regularly getting drunk - more than ever before.

Leading doctors now say that the situation has gone too far.

Professor Ian Gilmore, who chairs the Royal College of Physicians, said that the price of alcohol should be raised and that the government needs to act now.

He told Panorama: "What we cannot afford to do is to wait the 40 years that it took with smoking. We know that the tobacco industry was incredibly powerful. It took a long time to get the health messages home.

"We cannot afford that same long timescale with alcohol."

The programme, Booze - What Every Teenager Needs to Know, is on BBC1 on Sunday at 10.15pm.

To find out more about our Keep Kids Sober campaign visit www.daily echo.co.uk/news/campaigns.

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