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Alcoholic at 12

Friday, December 12th, 2008 Alcoholic at 12

An Extremely worrying article by Thelma Etim of the BBC (12 12 08) concerning a mother’s shock discovery of her young sons demise with alcohol.

The lady who uses the pseudonym Jane was alerted by a knock on the door, she was informed her 12 year old son had collapsed in the street. The young boy had drunk himself unconscious and was being revived by paramedics after attending a friend’s birthday party.

Moreover he had consumed an entire bottle of vodka and half a bottle of martini. More worrying was the fact that for a whole year he had been consuming large amounts of alcohol before the watershed incident brought his problem to the attention of his shocked parents.

His mother says, “I work full-time and I would send him to a child minders,” said the distraught mother from Bournemouth. “Unbeknown to me, Alan had stopped going after school and had started hanging around with much older children - the wrong crowd basically.”

However problems were emerging even as early as primary school, this continued into secondary schooling. Alan was getting into trouble on a regular basis. Etim goes on to say that both parents were exposed and bore the full brunt of his aggression that was completely and wholly symptomatic of excessive drinking.

The mother states, “”He has quite violent rages when he is drunk,” added Jane. “He would head-butt the wall or punch the door - every single door in our house had to be replaced.” At 15 Alan was confirmed an alcoholic. Indeed at this point he was drinking uo to 15 cans of lager per day. Such is the extent of Alan’s problem, both he and his mother have been prescribed anti-depressants. He has also been informed by his doctors that if he continues this path he will be dead by 25.

Alan is now 20, he has tried to get on the right track. He completed an apprenticeship as a painter and decorator. Sadly though, he crashed his car whilst drunk and the consequences were that he also lost his job. His mother says, “He is now on police bail awaiting trial for alcohol-related violence. I think a lot of it was probably my fault, I did not keep a closer eye on him,” Another aspect to be considered is the issues surrounding child care, also both parents having to work. We seriously need to consider who is looking after our children.

Moving on Alan’s story is not only far from unique but one that is familiar to a growing number of families across Britain. A report by the BBC (20 02 07) highlights children as young as eight years old in Northern Ireland are being treated for alcohol and substance abuse. Drink, cannabis and solvents are being peddled to primary school children who are regularly misusing them.

According to Raymond McKimm. who manages the Eastern Health Board’s Lifematters project, and believes early intervention is vital. He argues, “I am currently working with a child with an entrenched problem at 11 years of age that goes back three years,” he said.

“Children regularly misuse cannabis, alcohol or solvents.”

“Those who are peddling the substances don’t discriminate in terms of age.” Furthermore, Alcohol Concern have raised issues concerning young children and the misuse of alcohol. In conducting research it was found that there was a large increase in the amount of alcohol being drunk by 11 to 13-year-olds.

Srabani Sen of Alcohol Concern says, “evidence shows that we are simply not doing enough to protect our children from alcohol. Binge drinking by children can have serious consequences for brain function, significantly raises the risk of alcohol dependency in later life and diminishes their life chances.”

It would now be relevant to give information as to where the law stands surrounding children and alcohol. It is illegal to give an alcoholic drink to a child under five except under medical supervision in an emergency. It is thought the Children Act 1908 made provision for parents to give alcohol to a very young child, where it could be considered an anaesthetic in cases of acute injury. In relation to children under 16, they are allowed to go anywhere in a pub as long as they are supervised by an adult, but cannot have any alcoholic drinks.

Young people aged 16 or 17 can drink beer, wine or cider with a meal if it is bought by an adult and they are accompanied by an adult. It is illegal for this age group to drink spirits in pubs even with a meal. It is illegal for people under 18 to buy alcohol in a pub, off-licence, shop or elsewhere. And in most cases, it is against the law for anyone to buy alcohol for someone under 18 to drink in a pub or a public place. It is legal for adults to buy alcohol for children over four to drink in the home.

Under the Confiscation of Alcohol (Young Persons) Act 1997, police have powers to confiscate alcohol from under 18s drinking in public places including streets and parks. The whole issue of alcohol misuse and children needs to be readdressed as it is clearly failing our children.

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