Role models needed to change binge drinking culture, says Hope UK

|PIC1|Christian drug awareness charity Hope UK has warned that role models and practical action are needed to turn the tide of binge drinking in the UK.

The charity said that alcohol-related hospital admissions had risen 7 per cent in one year and more than doubled in 12 years, whilst in 2007 alone, 5,000 young people under the age of 18 needed to receive emergency treatment after drinking alcohol. Liver disease caused by alcohol, meanwhile, has increased by 200 per cent in 10 years.

Hope UK said, "It is clear that information campaigns are not enough to counter the culture of excessive alcohol consumption in the UK."

Some experts are blaming Britain's growing alcohol dependency on the ready availability of cheap alcoholic drinks in supermarkets and the 24-hour pub opening legislation.

"These may well be contributing factors, but there is still widespread ignorance about what safe drinking levels are," the charity said.

"Hope UK is convinced that practical action, including peer influence and role modelling, is needed to change the prevailing attitude that alcohol is somehow indispensable for having a good time."

Hope UK runs sessions across the UK for school children and teenagers, as well as parents, highlighting the benefits of making drug and alcohol free choices. All of its voluntary drug educators are asked to make a personal commitment to live a life free from the use of alcohol and other drugs. Hope UK also encourages the church to include alcohol and other drug issues in its outreach to local communities.

Hope UK recently launched a new three-year strategy to increase the number of its educators from its present 209 volunteers, to 1,000 by the year 2011.

The charity said that it was motivated to "radically increase" the number of educators not only as a result of the drinking statistics, but also the "hidden harm perpetrated on the children of adults who regularly drink to excess".

Hope UK called on society to make a commitment to assess their attitude to drinking at the individual level, saying that it was still possible to turn the current trends around.

"Education, backed up by consistent role modelling, can make a difference and it is encouraging to note that, though youngsters who drink alcohol are drinking more than ever, an increasing percentage of 11-15 year olds are choosing not to drink at all," it said.

"Changing attitudes in society takes time and it takes commitment from all those who want to see a reduction in the harm caused by alcohol. Every individual has the potential to influence those with whom they come in contact."