London: Children as young as 12 are being diagnosed as alcoholics amid growing concerns about binge-drinking in Britain, an investigation by The Independent on Sunday reveals today.
Record numbers of pre-teens and teenagers now require hospital treatment for drink-related disorders, the exclusive nationwide survey shows.
The findings prove there is a hidden epidemic of child alcoholism, resulting in thousands of youngsters being treated in hospital each year for alcohol poisoning, liver disease and drink-related psychiatric illnesses.
Doctors warn that conditions such as cirrhosis of the liver are now starting to appear in people who are still in their teens, prompting calls for special detoxification clinics to be set up around the country for teenage drinkers.
Dr Claire Casey, head of a new youth detox unit at the private Priory Group, said: "We have children presenting with all the adult symptoms of alcoholism. Some are so addicted that it is actually dangerous to get them to stop drinking straight away.''
New figures reveal that Britain's teenagers are drinking twice as much as they did a decade ago, with half of all 13-year-olds consuming more than 10 units a week. The amount being consumed by 11- to 13-year-olds has gone up almost threefold in the same period, with doctors citing the cultural shift towards 24-hour drinking.
They are also worried that the drinks industry is deliberately targeting the young, promoting alcopops - heavily sweetened, attractively packaged alcoholic drinks - and offering alcohol at historically low prices. Source.