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Binge drinking a blight on Australia's young.

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Australian Medical Association Limited ABN 37 008 426 793

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AMA President, Dr Bill Glasson, said today that binge drinking is on the rise among young Australians and the health effects of this blatant alcohol abuse can stay with many of them throughout life.

Dr Glasson said binge drinking is a blight on Australia’s young that can take lives, cause physical and mental harm, and lead to events and consequences that affect innocent bystanders and passers-by.

“Binge drinking by our kids is a major problem for families and communities,” Dr Glasson said.

“The prevalence of alcohol use among young people has increased to dangerous levels in the past decade, and much of it is binge drinking.

“There is a lot of peer pressure coercing young people into dangerous and harmful alcohol drinking habits.

“It is a problem that must be addressed by young people, their families, communities and governments.”

According to the Victorian Youth Alcohol and Drug Survey, the current generation of drinkers starts younger, drinks more, and indulges in binge drinking to a greater extent than any previous generation.

Ten years ago, the estimated cost to the Australian community of the harmful effects of alcohol was around $4.5 billion a year. But kids are now starting to drink alcohol more regularly on average at 14 years of age. Many of them are unaware of the harm caused by binge drinking and don’t know how to avoid the risks associated with alcohol.

According to the American Medical Association’s report, ‘Harmful Consequences of Alcohol Use on the Brains of Children, Adolescents, and College Students’, the brain goes through dynamic change during adolescence, and alcohol can seriously damage long-term and short-term growth processes.

Frontal lobe development and the refinement of pathways and connections continue until age 16, and a high rate of energy is used as the brain matures until age 20.

Damage from alcohol at this time can be long-term and irreversible.

In addition, short-term or moderate drinking impairs learning and memory far more in youth than adults. Adolescents need only drink half as much to suffer the same negative effects.

“Heavy drinking, which is not limited to our young people, is becoming increasingly socially acceptable - but it shouldn’t be,” Dr Glasson said.

“Kids learn by example. Parents and other role models in the community need to be aware that their often dangerous behaviour is being copied by children and teenagers.”


Binge drinking is defined as heavy drinking over a short period of time, or drinking continuously over a number of days or weeks.

The AMA defines binge drinking as drinking, on any single occasion, significantly more than the low-risk levels advised by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

Dr Glasson said binge drinking is a problem for drinkers of all ages, but we need to target the young abusers because the health dangers are more pronounced and to stop the habit before it becomes entrenched in their behaviour.

“The AMA will work with the government and the liquor industry to paint binge drinking as unhealthy, unattractive and antisocial,” Dr Glasson said.

During the holiday period, the AMA is calling on the alcohol industry, the Federal Government and the general public to do their bit to reduce the harm caused by alcohol.

General Public • Always drink in moderation • Don’t drink and drive or operate machinery • Drink slowly

• Alternate alcoholic with alcohol free or low alcohol drinks • Eat before or while drinking • Don’t drink if you’re pregnant

The Federal Government • Change alcohol tax to reflect alcohol content of products • Legislate for the introduction of health warnings on alcohol products

Alcohol Industry • Increase production of low and lower alcohol content products • Support the introduction of health warnings on alcohol products.

22 December 2004

CONTACT: John Flannery (02) 6270 5477 / (0419) 494 761