Graphic leaflets show dangers of underage drinking


Some 4,000 leaflets graphically illustrated with actors posing as bruised and battered young men and a pregnant girl, which highlight the after-effects of alcohol, are being distributed with school Christmas reports at second-level schools and in banks and surgeries.

It is part of a door-to-door campaign advising parents to keep "even small quantities of alcohol out of reach". The Bishop of Kerry, Dr Bill Murphy, has joined in a hard-hitting campaign by a combat drugs group in Killarney, Co Kerry, asking parents to "get in the way between your child and alcohol".

The campaign was necessary because parents overlooked alcohol, "the most abused drug of all" in their concern about drugs, said Mr Seán O'Grady, town councillor and chairman of the broadly based committee which was set up in 1999 under Killarney Town Council to tackle alcohol and drug abuse among young people.

It was necessary also to get parents and children to see through drinks advertisements, which attempted to hook young people on brands for life, much as smoking advertisements had done, he said. Many teenagers take their first drink at times such as Christmas, according to the leaflet devised by professionals in the field of alcohol abuse and targeted at parents. Teenagers should not be left home alone overnight and a close eye should be kept on pocket money and money earned in part-time work and how it is spent, the leaflet warns.

"As parents we need to review our own attitudes and behaviour around alcohol before we can help our children to make sensible decisions about it," said Dr Murphy and he asked parents to talk to children about the danger of the abuse of alcohol and "to alert their children to the power of advertisements and the pressure that will inevitable come from their peers". Parents have a vitally important role in tackling alcohol, Dr Murphy said. "They \ need to listen to what their children have to say, and to discuss with them the issues that arise," he said.

Sister Kathleen Liston, the director of family ministry in the diocese, said in the leaflet: "The reality is the fight against alcohol and drugs is being won or lost daily in the homes of young people and by their parents. Parents must get in the way between their child and alcohol." The Garda juvenile liaison officer, Cathal Walsh, said parents are too tolerant of their children's attitude to alcohol: "There is no limit to the amount of freedom allowed. Far too many young people are given money as compensation in lieu of parental guidance."

Unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections are highlighted as one of the side effects of under-age drinking.

Mood swings, secretive behaviour, lying, stealing, deterioration in appearance and loss of appetite with loss of interest in school, hobbies and friends, may be among the symptoms of alcohol abuse, the leaflet warns.