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Can we halt the binge drinking juggernaut?

Date Published:
24 Apr 2012
Contact person:
Marion Downey
02 9385 1080

Public lecture: “Generation Bulletproof – are we losing our young people to alcohol and drugs?” at UNSW Thursday 26 April, 2012

Are young people really drinking more than ever before and what can parents and the community do to reduce the harm?

These are two of the questions to be debated by an expert panel in a public forum at the University of New South Wales this Thursday.

Panellists, led by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre’s director Professor Michael Farrell, will look at just how serious the binge drinking culture is among Generation Y and what, if anything, parents and the community can do to intervene.

With young men aged 18-29 drinking at more harmful levels than any other group in the community and young women catching up fast, there is no room for complacency, warns Professor Farrell.

While the good news is that 60 per cent of young people aged 12-17 do not drink alcohol, the bad news is that people are starting drug and alcohol use at a much younger age, at 14 compared with around 17 in 1995.

“This is a generation that believes they are bulletproof and not vulnerable to the risks of alcohol and other drug use,” says Professor Farrell. “Around two thirds of males aged 18-19 and more than half of young men aged 20-29 put themselves at risk of an alcohol-related injury at least once a month – that’s a wake-up call for all of us.”

Fellow panellist, NDARC’s Professor Maree Teesson, says that in the face of increasing evidence that heavy alcohol use can impact on the developing brain well into the late teens, one of the most powerful interventions that parents can make is to delay introducing alcohol for as long as possible.

“We tend to lose sight of the fact that most young people do not drink,” Professor Teesson says. “We need as a community and as parents to stop normalising use and to empower our young people to develop the skills to resist the enormous pressure on them to start drinking and to drink excessively in the name of fun.”

What: Public Forum “Generation Bulletproof – are we losing our young people to alcohol and drugs?” kicks off the UNSW Alumni Office BrainFood Lecture series for 2012.

When: 6.00pm for 6.30pm - 8.00pm, Thursday 26 April 2012

Where: Leighton Hall, John Niland Scientia Building, UNSW Kensington Campus.

Speakers: Professors Michael Farrell and Maree Teesson from NDARC; Superintendent Pat Paroz, Commander of Drug and Alcohol Coordination NSW Police; Jamie Moore from alcohol harm reduction advocacy group Hello Sunday Morning.

To register, email: alumni@unsw.edu.au or register online at http://www.unsw.edu.au/events

Media contact: Marion Downey 0401 713 850, m.downey@usnw.edu.au

Young People and Alcohol: the facts

  • According to the 2010 National Drug Strategy Household Survey more than 80% of the Australian population aged over 14 years consumed alcohol in the 12 months prior to the survey. The number of people drinking daily was down to 1.3 million in 2010 (7.2%) from 1.4 million in 2007 – the date of the last Household Survey. Men were twice as likely as women to drink daily.
  • Males were far more likely than females to drink alcohol in risky quantities and those aged between 18-29 years were more likely than females to consume alcohol in risky quantities and were more likely than any other age group to consume alcohol in quantities that place them at risk of injury or other harm over their lifetime
  • Nearly 60 per cent of 12-17 year olds had never consumed alcohol. However this was the only age group where more females than males drank alcohol (39.1 per cent of females compared with 37.6 per cent of males)
  • The number of 12-15 year olds abstaining from alcohol increased (from 69.9% in 2007 to 77.7% in 2010) as did the number of 16-17 year olds (from 24.4% to 31.6%)
  • About one in six people aged 14 or older put themselves at risk of an alcohol relate injury from  single occasion of drinking at least once a week
  • Around two thirds of males aged 18-19 years and more than half aged 20-29 put themselves at risk of an alcohol related injury at least once a month
  • The proportion of people being physically abused by a person under the influence of alcohol increased significantly between 2007 and 201o ( from 4.5% to 8.1%), while the proportion of people driving a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol decreased (from 14.3 per cent to 13.1%) as did the proportion of people verbally abusing someone.
  • For children and young people under 18 years of age, not drinking alcohol is the safest option. Children under 15 years of age are at the greatest risk of harm from drinking and for this age group not drinking alcohol is especially important. For young people aged 15−17 years, the safest option is to delay the initiation of drinking for as long as possible (NHMRC Guidelines 2009.)