Drug Education News

News and views from the Drug Education Forum

Defining Binge Drinking for Children and Adolescents

The Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, when he wrote his recent guidance on alcohol for children, young people and their parents talked alot about binge drinking, but didn’t define binge drinking differently for children or young people.

Via the SHEU I see that American academics have now argued that we should be (you can read their full paper here).  In the coverage from Medical News Today the researcher says:

Both children and young adolescents weigh substantially less than adults and likely would achieve considerably higher BACs (blood alcohol concentrations) with five drinks within a two-hour period or would reach a BAC greater than 0.08 g/dL with significantly fewer drinks.

This adds up to a recommendation that a binge should be defined in the following ways:

  • three or more drinks for 9- to 13-year-old children;
  • four or more drinks for boys and three or more drinks for girls ages 14 or 15; and
  • five or more drinks for boys and three or more drinks for girls ages 16 or 17.

They also suggest that what constitutes heavy drinking should be revised downward.

The paper points out:

Intake of fewer drinks than these at each age should not be considered safe, however.

The paper goes on to say:

Given the opportunistic nature of children’s drinking, these results likely underestimate actual BACs at each intake level, because children, like college students, are likely to pour larger than standard drinks. These figures likely overestimate BACs at each intake level for children in countries that use smaller standard drink sizes (eg, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand).

The paper concludes that there are a number of limitations to the research – the main one being that, for obvious ethical reasons, it is based on theory rather than by testing on children.  They warn:

Therefore, these estimates should be considered theoretical and should not be used in pediatric forensic applications. They are at best heuristic approximations developed to advocate against the use of adult operational definitions of hazardous alcohol use in the younger population.

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Filed under: alcohol, research, SHEU

Young People in Cumbria 2008

Young People in CumbriaEarlier today I saw a story about young people and alcohol in Cumbria which said there was a survey of 2,000 young people.

Being a resourseful sort of fellow I followed up with Healthy Schools in Cumbria and within minutes have been sent their findings.

Looking at the data it’s clear the findings are from work they have done with the SHEU; and as a result are much wider than alcohol.   But I’ll stick to the findings that are around drugs, alcohol and tobacco.

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: SHEU

Social norms and SHEU surveys

The SHEU on social norms:

A recent example of SHEU using the social norms approach comes from an evaluation study in Luton.

Pupils were asked about their drinking habits and to estimate, out of a hundred pupils in their school year, how many they believed have drunk any alcohol over the last 7 days? Pupils were also asked, out of every hundred pupils in their school year, how many they believed have got drunk over the last 7 days?

Year 8 Year 10
Percentage of pupils who reported drinking alcohol last week 19% 31%
Average estimate of percentage of other pupils in their school year who drank alcohol last week 44% 51%
Percentage of pupils who reported getting drunk last week 6% 15%
Average estimate of percentage of other pupils in their school year who got drunk last week 22% 31%
N= 199 139

It is immediately obvious that, in each year, pupils’ estimates far exceed reports of their own behaviour. There may be many reasons for this but we are sure that it is valuable for pupils to see and reflect on these figures.

Filed under: SHEU,

Reclassifying cannabis ‘would make no difference to young’

The Independent pick up on research published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (you can see my summary of the paper here).  The paper says:

Reclassifying cannabis would be pointless and therefore unlikely to make any difference to young users of the drug, according to a new report by some of the country’s top criminal policy experts.

Cannabis has now become such an important part of youth culture that a new generation of users are supplying each other with the drug, buying and sharing it with friends and relatives. A team of researchers from the Institute for Criminal Policy Research (ICPR) led by Professor Mike Hough, a senior adviser to the Home Office, has concluded that the “social supply” of cannabis has almost entirely cut out traditional drug dealers and therefore needs a new approach. Their findings reveal that 90 per cent of young users can get hold of cannabis in under a day – with the majority able to get it within an hour.

I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of the figures that the paper and the ICPR report, but I think it’s pertinent to point to some research by the SHEU.  In a paper that was sent to me this morning they make two points:

Experimentation has not grown in proportion with availability; therefore, young people are able to refuse unwelcome offers of cannabis.

Young people’s perceptions of the dangers of drugs have firmed up over recent years; until recently older pupils were inclined to be more sanguine about any risks, butnow there is an awareness of the dangers.

To back up their first point they provide the following graphs which look at those saying they have taken cannabis and, on the right, the percentage that say they have been offered cannabis:

SHEU on cannabis

The Drug Education Forum is currently putting together a submission to the ACMD for them to consider as part of their review of the classification of cannabis.  Once that has been finalised we’ll publish it.

Filed under: ACMD, cannabis, SHEU, , , ,

Drug Education Forum responds to SHEU report

Stephen Burgess, Vice Chair of the Drug Education Forum, speaking on the publication of the School Health Education Unit’s, Young People into 2007, said:

It is heartening to see that where drug education is seen as useful that young people are less likely to experiment with drugs.

However, the findings from the SHEU should be a clarion call to all of us, parents, teachers, and youth workers that there is much more to do in helping children and young people understand the dangers around drugs, and to help them value their own health.

We are particularly concerned about the prevalence of alcohol use amongst increasingly young children, which is one of the reasons we believe that drug education must start in primary schools.

The Drug Education Forum published Involving Children and Young People in their Drug Education last year which gives examples of primary and secondary schools working with children and young people to make drug education useful to children and young people.

Filed under: SHEU

SHEU on drug education

Taking a look at the SHEU web page on their latest survey again this morning I thought readers of this blog would want to have the following brought to their attention:

Useful school lessons in health education

Most lessons on the list are reported to be less ‘useful’ as pupils get older

Lessons about drug education, safety, sex and relationships education and physical activity are useful. (p.96)

“Young people who rate their drugs lessons as useful are less likely to experiment with drugs.” – DR

I don’t think we can say that’s a causal link but it is a hopeful one.

Filed under: SHEU

One in 10 year six pupils classed as ‘drinkers’

More coverage of the Schools Health Education Unit’s survey in The Telegraph:

As many as one in 10 children drink alcohol in their final year of primary school, figures show.

In a survey of almost 70,000 young people, it is claimed that drinking is rife among children aged as young as 10 and 11. By the time children hit 12 or 13 that figure doubles – with almost one in five classed as “drinkers”.

The study, by the Schools Health Education Unit, said under-age girls were more likely to get drunk than boys.

The same points are covered in The Independent.

The survey found

The off-licence remains the most important source of purchased alcohol, especially for the 14-15 year olds, followed by the supermarket. (p.61)

David Regis makes the point:

“This is of course illegal, but they still keep telling us they are able to make such purchases . All the cigarettes, alcohol and drugs used by young people are ultimately obtained from adults.”

Filed under: alcohol, SHEU

Teenage girls drink boys under table

The Times:

NEARLY a quarter of 15-year-old girls get drunk at least once a week, according to new research that identifies them as worse binge drinkers than boys.

The study finds that in recent years, the overall proportion of children drinking alcohol has fallen, perhaps because of better education – but at the same time a hard core of heavy-drinking children has been growing.

According to the research, 23% of 14 and 15-year-old girls admitted they got drunk at least once a week, compared with 21% of boys.

The SHEU who did the research have a wide ranging report on young people’s health which includes a section on legal and illegal drugs:

“Most young people don’t smoke, or use drugs, and those that drink usually do so in moderation. It’s very easy to focus only on the behaviour of those few young people who use illegal drugs or who drink to excess.

“After a peak in the middle 1990s and then a drop, drug use among these young people seems to have settled down. The most common drug they have tried is cannabis; we have seen no sign that the reclassification of cannabis has resulted in its greater use by young people. This is a very important ‘negative’ finding.

Dr. David Regis, Research Manager.

Filed under: alcohol, SHEU

About this blog

This blog tries to pick up relevant media and research stories about drug education. It mainly focuses on information in England as this is the geographical remit for the Drug Education Forum. We welcome comments that are on topic.

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