Boys drink more than girls but, according to the charity Turning Point, which helps those with alcohol, drug and mental health problems, girlsâ€™ bodies are composed of more fat and less water, so the alcohol is more concentrated in their systems, producing a stronger effect.
Drinking is also a factor in nearly half of fatal road accidents which befall young people.
Why do so many teenagers start drinking? One common reason is that they want to be like adults. Alcohol becomes a forbidden fruit, a rite of passage into a grown-up world. Besides drinking in pub with friends is exciting and fun. The emotional turmoil of adolescence can lead youngsters to drink, too. â€œOn top of normal worries like exams and relationships, more and more young people are suffering the effects of lack of communication within the family,â€ says Dr Sidney Gauntlett. Alcohol relieves the pain, at least temporally. But alcohol is a depressant, so often people feel worse the next day. Sometimes they then have another drink, setting a dangerous pattern for the future.
General alcohol education is increasingly being introduced to primary schools. Professor Griffith Edwards of the National Addiction Centre says: â€œYoung people should learn the facts about alcohol early in life to help to prevent their teenagers hitting the bottle. They should talk to their children about the dangers of drinking and point out the hidden messages in drinking scenes on television. But everything still depends on the teenager and no one else. No one will make him give up drinking if he doesnâ€™t want to. Bernie Nazary used to drink, but she managed to give up. Now she says, â€œI realized that giving up drinking is my decision. I could go out and drink but I donâ€™t want to. I never thought Iâ€™d say this, but I love being sober.â€