More than 250 children have been treated in Derry’s Altnagelvin hospital for alcohol abuse over the past four years, the ‘Journal’ has learned.
Figures released by the Western Health and Social Care Trust (WHSCT) show that between 2007 and 2010, 257 under 17 year-olds were treated in the Derry hospital for ‘acute alcohol intoxication’ or ‘alcohol problem’.
The figures were released to the ‘Journal’ under the Freedom of Information Act.
In 2007 a total of 74 children, all in the 12-17 year old bracket, were treated in Altnagelvin. In both 2008 and 2009 that figure dropped to 67, while in 2010 it fell to 49.
This equates to an average of 65 children per year.
The WHSCT statistics reveal that since 2007 no kids in the 7-11 years or any under sevens were admitted with ‘acute alcohol intoxication’ or ‘alcohol problem’.
Research by the north’s chief medical officer indicates as many as four out of five 16 year-olds have had an alcoholic drink of some type.
The Derry figures have been released as the PSNI announced plans of a crackdown on teen boozers across the north.
Police say they plan to target teen drinkers over Easter but they say parents must also talk to their children about the impact of alcohol use.
Chief Constable William Kerr says there are serious consequences to teenage drinking.
“Young people can become victims of crime, incur serious injuries as a result of having drunk too much, or commit crime fuelled by alcohol.
“Police officers are committed to protecting communities and their young people, and to support this awareness campaign Police will be enforcing ‘Operation Snapper’, in cities, towns and villages across Northern Ireland over the Easter period.”
Running alongside Operation Snapper, the ‘You, Your Child and Alcohol’ campaign will use television advertisements and a booklet to encourage and support parents to have conversations with their children about alcohol.
The booklets are available from GP surgeries, pharmacies and retail stores across Northern Ireland.