Teenage binge drinking a 'rite of passage'

Friday, 11 April 2008
/ Youth

Binge drinking had become an initiation ceremony or “rite of passage”, for teenagers, an Alcohol Advisory Council of New Zealand (ALAC) speaker told a Nelson conference today.

“There’s a widespread phenomenon to blame the young,” ALAC Principal Policy Advisor Wendy Moore said. “You open almost any newspaper and read how bad they are, how irresponsible they are, how they shouldn’t be drinking. But look at the rest of us; are we so responsible?

“Actually the reason young people drink the way they do is because that’s the way many of us drink.”

ALAC research showed some 785,000 New Zealand adults regularly indulged in binge drinking, she said. Teenage binge drinkers, who merely wanted to act like adults, regularly witnessed society tolerating and sometimes celebrating such behaviour.

“Intoxicated people are regarded as good fun, adults swap stories of drunken acts from their youth12-24 years of age. as if they were badges of honour, and even quite gross outcomes such as vomiting in public seem acceptable,” Ms Moore said.

“Binge drinking has become normal – a rite of passage – which starts with parents buying alcohol for teenagers in the hope of some kind of control.”

The conference, with the theme Local Government – Planning for Alcohol in the Community, includes speakers from government departments, health agencies, universities and local government. It comes as ALAC launches a hard-hitting new advertising campaign featuring television commercials which show three examples of “tipping points” to harmful behaviour after binge drinking.

“We’re trying through such campaigns to change the drinking culture in this country, but we realise it’s a huge ask,” Ms Moore said.

“It’s probably only in the past four or five years that New Zealanders have woken to the fact we have a serious problem. People are just discovering alcohol is involved in many accident and emergency hospital admissions at weekends, for example.

“But it’s always someone else who’s to blame; and that someone is often the young.”

Further information:
Liz Price on 0276 957 744, 04 527 3290.