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Partying teens go on massive alcohol benders

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Young drinkers are downing massive quantities of alcohol in destructive ‘preloading’ binges before heading off for a night out, putting them at far greater risk of sexual assault or violent attack.

As the annual schoolies celebrations get underway, a Drug and Alcohol Services SA survey has found children as young as 15 years are drinking dangerous amounts of alcohol, including at home before going out.

The finding came as an 18-year-old West Australian girl died at her birthday party after drinking shots of Polmos Spirytus Rektyfikowany, a Polish spirit with a very high alcohol content that the AMA called to be banned two year ago.

The parents of Nicole Bicknell have added their voices to the call for the ban amid fears other young people celebrating schoolies will imbibe the potentially deadly drink.

The call came as the SA survey of 3000 young people found more than 500 admitted to being drunk in public in the preceding 12 months.

Of these, 60 per cent said they had preloaded before going out, with some claiming to have binged on up to 17 drinks before going to night clubs, bars or other public venues.

University of South Australia researcher Professor Jason White told the Adelaide Advertiser that both boys and girls indulged in preloading to roughly the same extent, and binge drinking was more common among young people than older party-goers.

He warned the drinking habits of many young people was putting their health at risk, saying those who indulged in preloading typically drank massive amounts in a short space of time, leading to a rapid jump in their blood alcohol levels.

“People do die as a result of alcohol intoxication, due to breathing slowing down to a level [that] they’re effectively not breathing at all,” Professor White told the Adelaide Advertiser. “You also get more impairment of normal function, which means the risk of accidents is greater, and the risk of behavioural changes where they get involved in fights and other incidents can be greater.”

The AMA National Alcohol Summit convened last month was told of the danger many young people were placing themselves in as a result of heavy drinking, including increased risk of being involved in car accidents or physical or sexual assaults.

At the Summit, the AMA called for the Federal Government to lead a national approach to curbing the nation’s destructive drinking problem, including tighter restrictions on the marketing and promotion of alcohol to young people, getting rid of cheap booze by reforming alcohol taxation and severing the link between alcohol and sport.

Adrian Rollins