The Alcohol Education Trust - Parent Newsletter

Autumn Term, October 2018, Ed 32

How can half term be approaching already? For those of us with children who have settled into new schools, it is always a bumpy time for them, with new friendships, new teachers and a new environment to cope with – not to mention the angst we face as parents and carers!

Moving from school to sixth form college, or heading off to uni or apprenticeships is a stressful time too, and I’m sure you’ll have been pleased to read about universities investing a lot more in the health and wellbeing of freshers, and ensuring that alcohol and initiation ceremonies for clubs and societies are more responsible, thank goodness.

Girls have been in the news again as they continue to drink more than boys and be hospitalised more for alcohol

The study for the World Health Organisation shows that teenage girls in England, Scotland and Wales take three of the top six places in a drinking league table comparing 36 European nations and teenage girls in the UK are more likely than boys of the same age to have got drunk at least twice. While those in Denmark were the most likely to have been drunk at least twice (38%), Welsh girls were next, followed by Hungary, Scotland, Lithuania and England. In all these nations, at least 30% of teenage girls had been repeatedly drunk - around twice the rates in Italy and France. The study, led by the University of St Andrews, shows that while drinking among British boys has fallen so far that it has vastly improved their rankings in European league tables, British girls are still among the heaviest drinkers. However, drunkenness among UK girls has halved over the 12-year period - in 2002, 54.7 per cent of English girls had got drunk at least twice previously - falling to 30.9 per cent in 2014 which is a fantastic improvement. With rising levels of anxiety among teenage girls and rising levels of self-harm we do need a special focus on girls and we hope these tips for us as parents and carers may help.


Girls are very calorie aware and often cut out on calories if they plan to go out and drink. This is doubly bad as this means alcohol rushes into the blood stream and straight to our major organs such as brain, liver and heart instead of staying in the stomach, giving the liver more of a chance to cope. So if we can encourage all to eat before or while drinking this makes a big difference – toast or a bowl of cereal helps, but a full meal is better of course.

Another good tip to pass on is to pace alcoholic drinks with non alcoholic ones – all pubs and clubs have to offer free tap water now – so tell them how much money they will save as well as staying hydrated – they’ll avoid that hangover next day hopefully too.

The importance of looking after each other and sticking together is really important too so they get home safely and aren’t separated from their friends.

Another way we can help is by discouraging ‘pre loading’ or ‘prinking’. Girls like getting ready together before they go out to parties and will often drink many units before the evening out has begun. Be vigilant and aware that this is the case - if you drop off at the party yourself and pick up at the end, we know this really makes a difference – as does checking what friends are bringing to your house in rucksacks and bags if they’re coming to your house first!

Drug testing at festivals

In this edition, for the first time, we have a guest article from Fiona Spargo – Mabbs from the DSM Foundation, on drug testing at festivals. We felt this was important as as we talk to parents when we hold parent talks across the country, many worry about what happens when their teenagers head off to their first festivals. Fiona attended Bestival and found out about the controversial practice of allowing people to have their drugs tested for contamination anonymously. You can read her feature here:

On a similar theme, Canadian researchers investigated the links between alcohol and cannabis use on the teen brain. They found that the 3,800 teens they followed from age 13 for four years who used cannabis performed less well, especially in tests of memory and impulse control. The researchers said teenagers with worse memory and impulse control were also more likely than other teens to use alcohol and cannabis. However, an increase in cannabis use in 1 year was associated with lower test scores that year and also in the following year, suggesting that cannabis could have a lasting effect on their brain function.

Cannabis also seemed to have greater effects in younger teens compared with older teens The results also supported "a lasting, or neurotoxic, effect of cannabis" on inhibition control and working memory. You can read more about how cannabis can lead to health problems here: Researchers took into account pupils' family income, gender, ethnicity and whether they lived with both biological parents. For alcohol: pupils who drank more alcohol more often over 4 years had poorer working memory, perceptual reasoning and inhibitory control too.

The main difficulty is that we still don't know with certainty whether teens who used alcohol and cannabis had worse brain function because of substance use, or whether they were more likely to use alcohol and cannabis because of their poorer brain function. This study gives teenagers another reason to think twice about using cannabis however.
Cannabis 'more harmful than alcohol' for teen brains- BBC News, October 3 2018 Morin JG, Afzali MH, Bourque J, et al. A Population-Based Analysis of the Relationship Between Substance Use and Adolescent Cognitive DevelopmentThe American Journal of Psychiatry. Published online October 3 2018

Do visit the parent area of our website

If you have any queries about alcohol and the law, hosting teenage parties or how to start a conversation with your children about alcohol – do visit the bespoke area for parents and carers of – there’s a great site for your teenagers too that you can explore together called with videos, games and quizzes. Remember, you can always email us too via confidentially with any questions you may have.

Victoria McDonaugh, MA (Hons), PGCE
Christina Benjamin, BSc (Hons), PGCE
David Cox
Kate Larard, MSc, HV, RM, SRN
Keith Newton, ACA
Alison Winsborough, BMus, PGCE
Stephen Foster
The Alcohol Education Trust - Frampton House - Frampton - Dorchester - Dorset - DT2 9NH
01300 320869
Registered Charity Number: 1138775 -

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