With examination results fast approaching for thousands of young people, the Public Health Agency (PHA) urges parents to talk to their child about the risks associated with drinking alcohol.
Students will receive their AS and A Level grades on Thursday 18 August, and thousands more will collect their GCSE results the following week. The PHA advises parents to be aware of how their child plans to celebrate the results, warn them of the dangers of underage drinking and stress the importance of sticking to the limits for those who have reached the legal age to drink.
Owen O’Neill, PHA Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement Manager and Drugs and Alcohol Lead, said: “Exam results can signify a major milestone for many young people and, often, they will want to celebrate with friends, regardless of their grades. We want parents to discuss with their child the serious consequences of underage drinking, or, if their child is of the legal drinking age, encourage them to take care if they choose to drink. Excessive and underage drinking can increase the risk of accidents and antisocial behaviour, as well as sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancies.
“Even if your child is old enough to drink, staying within the safe drinking limits is important, as excessive drinking can have lasting effects on health, such as damage to the liver, heart, brain and stomach. Parents have a role to play, even with older children. They should make the first move and talk openly about the dangers of binge drinking.”
• Make the first move and bring up the topic of alcohol. Don’t wait until there’s a problem before you decide to talk.
• Take time to listen to what your child has to say.
• Respect their views if you want the same in return.
• Discuss the risks associated with drinking alcohol.
• Discuss possible consequences of their actions and support them to make the right choices.
• Assume your child doesn’t want to talk. Not talking to your child about alcohol could be interpreted as your approval of them drinking.
• Assume they already know everything.
• Interrupt or be judgmental, even if you don’t agree with their opinion.
There are more handy tips on talking to your child about drinking in the booklet You, your child and alcohol, which is available from GP surgeries, pharmacies and in the Publications section of the PHA website, by clicking here
Notes to the editor
Further information contact the PHA Press Office, Ormeau Avenue, on 028 9031 1611.
• The PHA takes the lead on the DHSSPS’s New strategic direction for alcohol and drugs 2006–2011.
• If you are worried about poor mental health, either your own or that of your child, or you are interested in maintaining good mental health, visit: www.mindingyourhead.info
• If you are in distress or despair, contact Lifeline, a free and confidential 24 hour helpline, on 0808 808 8000.
Recommended safe alcohol limits
It is recommended that men drink no more than 3 to 4 units of alcohol a day and no more than 21 units over the course of the week.
It is recommended that women drink no more than 2 to 3 units of alcohol a day and no more than 14 units over the course of the week. Women are at greater risk as alcohol affects women more quickly than men.
Remember that for each unit you drink over the daily limit, the risk to your health increases. It's important to spread the units throughout the week – you can't “save up” your units for a particular day or occasion. It is also important to drink plenty of water, ideally matching the amount of alcohol you have consumed.
Examples of units:
Can of extra strong lager – 4 units
Bottle of lager – 1.5 units
Small pub bottle of wine – 2.25 units
Pub measure of spirits – 1.5 units
Pint of stout – 2.5 units
Pint of cider – 3 units
If your child is of the legal drinking age and chooses to drink alcohol, remind them:
• ever drink and drive;
• drink on an empty stomach;
• drink in rounds or play drinking games, as this may speed up the frequency of your drinking pattern;
• leave your drinks unattended.
• take sips rather than gulps;
• alternate each alcoholic drink with a non-alcoholic drink, eg water or a soft drink;
• set yourself a limit and stick to it;
• take frequent breaks from drinking to give your body time to recover;
• tell friends and family where you are going and who you will be with.
For further information on sensible drinking and alcohol units, visit the PHA’s website: www.knowyourlimits.info