Home > Teenagers discuss solutions to alcohol misuse.

Gibney, Sarah (2008) Teenagers discuss solutions to alcohol misuse. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 26, Summer 2008 , p. 11.

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A national consultation was undertaken by the Office of the Minister for Children and the Department for Health and Children in 2007 in order to investigate the views of teenagers in relation to problem alcohol use.1 This consultation was on foot of the commitment by the Department of Health and Children to involving children and young people in researching their own lives, as highlighted in the National Children’s Strategy 2000–2010.2

 The consultation involved 257 Irish teenagers (aged 12–18) from secondary schools, youth organisations, Youth Reach centres and special interest groups. Five consultations were held, one each in Athlone, Sligo and Cork and two in Dublin. Workshops were facilitated by adults and some co-facilitated by young people from the Children and Young Peoples Forum (CYPF).
 
The consultation process involved the preliminary identification of solutions to problem alcohol use, which informed the themes for each workshop, and were then discussed by all participants at a Plenary session. There was considerable consistency in the themes identified at each consultation. The four main solutions identified were: a reduction in the legal age for drinking alcohol, alternative alcohol-free facilities, education, and law enforcement. The first two themes were noted as the most important by the teenage participants.
 
A small number of participants favoured raising the legal age limit to 21 years, while the majority favoured allowing 16–18-year-olds to drink in moderation under the monitoring of a ‘safe-limit’ card. A ‘safe-limit’ card would allow young people over the age of 16 a ‘safe number’ of alcoholic drinks of any type per night. They also recommended allowing those under the age of 16 to drink alcoholic beverages with less than 5% alcohol content. Participants reported that it would be more sociable and safer for young people to drink in public houses rather than covertly in public places. This would facilitate surveillance and reduce the ‘buzz’ surrounding teenage drinking which is enhanced by the illicit nature of the activity. Participants spoke of the necessity for an enforced system of identification for 12–25-year-olds. It was felt that only one form of identification should be accepted, such as the Garda Age Card, and that there was a clear need for tougher penalties for under age drinking.
 
The provision of affordable, alcohol-free facilities was an important solution highlighted by participants. While youth cafés were noted as a potential means of reducing the demand for alcohol-based recreation, it was noted that this would not fully eradicate the demand for alcohol among teenagers. It was argued that such facilities must have considerable teenage input in both their development and review.
 
Sport was noted as a vital area for developing alternative activities through both the strategic timing of activities (e.g. Saturday and Sunday mornings, thus hindering drinking behaviour on weekend nights) and increasing their inclusive focus, whereby participation is not restricted to a talented minority.
 
Participants identified a deficit in information relating to the consequences of problem alcohol use and felt that the delivery of age-appropriate material by objective professionals, rather than by teachers, could help greatly in addressing this deficit. It was noted that responsible drinking, rather than abstinence, was a more realistic approach for participants and that peer-mentoring and the use of role-models who drink responsibly could improve current alcohol education programmes. The role of parents was identified as important in underpinning education-based solutions, whereby a relationship of mutual respect, guidance and role modelling was paramount in fostering an attitude of responsibility towards alcohol use among teenagers.
 
While this report offers insights into teenagers’ opinions, their recommendations for reducing problem alcohol use are in conflict with those advocated by the World Health Organization – regulating availability and increasing prices – which have been proven as the most effective policy interventions. It also appears that the teenagers were not informed of the effectiveness of potential solutions prior to the consultation; if this information had been provided, the strategies recommended might have been different. 
 
1. Department of Health and Children (2008) Teenagers' views on solutions to alcohol misuse. Dublin: Stationery Office.
2. Department of Health and Children (2000) National Children’s Strategy: our children – their lives. Dublin: Stationery Office.
Item Type:Article
Issue Title:Issue 26, Summer 2008
Date:2008
Page Range:p. 11
Publisher:Health Research Board
Volume:Issue 26, Summer 2008
EndNote:View
Accession Number:HRB (Available)
Subjects:T Demographic characteristics > Adolescent / youth (teenager / young person)
VA Geographic area > Europe > Ireland
A Substance use, abuse, and dependence > Prevalence > Substance use behaviour > Alcohol consumption
MP-MR Policy, planning, economics, work and social services > Political process > Public opinion

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