Damaging Spell Alcohol Casts on Youth of Wales; RED CROSS RESEARCH SHEDS LIGHT ON YOUNGSTERS' HABITS

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Byline: ABBY ALFORD

ALMOST one in eight young teenagers in Wales has been forced to cope with a drunken friend who was sick, injured or unconscious, according to figures released today.

The finding, by the British Red Cross, is seen by an alcohol charity and leading medical expert as further proof of the damage the nation's binge-drinking culture is doing to its children.

Dr Andrew Dearden, chairman of the British Medical Association in Wales, said he is seeing increasing numbers of youngsters in his surgery who fear they may have been raped, fallen pregnant or caught a sexually transmitted disease when they were drunk.

"I have had younger people coming in saying, 'I was at a party, I was drunk, I don't know what has happened, but I may have been assaulted, I may be pregnant, I may have an STD'," he said.

"To me, it's a reflection of our society when an 11-year-old thinks it's cool to get that drunk."

The results of the British Red Cross survey of 500 Welsh teenagers, which was carried out by ICM Research in August, have been released as the charity launches its campaign to improve the lifesaving skills of young people.

It found half of 11 to 16-year-olds have been drunk on average three times in the past six months.

Close to one in five (23%) of those surveyed aged 14 to 16 drink alcohol on a typical weekend, with this group drinking an average of 12.9 units each - the equivalent of one-and-a-half bottles of wine or eight alcopops.

Researchers found that during the past 12 months about one in eight (13%) of 11 to 16-year-olds were left to cope with a drunken friend who was sick, injured in a fight or unconscious.

But it was not just alcohol-related injuries that young people have had to cope with.

Researchers found 85% have been faced with a friend suffering medical problems including head injuries, choking, epileptic fits and asthma attacks.

When asked what they did in response, almost half of those surveyed said they panicked and did not know what to do.

British Red Cross first aid expert Joe Mulligan said: "Our aim is that all young people and children in Wales have the opportunity to learn first aid skills and gain the confidence to save lives. …