The Alcohol Education Trust - Parent Newsletter

Autumn Term, December 2018, Ed 33

We can’t believe that this is our last newsletter of the year for 2018, and what a year it has been for us with the launch of our work into Scotland, the announcement of our plans to have a café community space and office at Poundbury in Dorchester and the exciting expansion of our work further into the Midlands and the South West.

In addition we’ve held our second National Conference ( in Liverpool this year) ensuring that teachers and youth workers can receive free training to ensure our children learn to stay safe around alcohol in an interactive, engaging and non-preachy way: in fact 997 different schools and organisations have accessed our Talk about Alcohol workbook of 100 pages of activities, worksheets, lesson plans and activities this year alone!

We’ve seen more parents and carers  face to face this year too at 47 different talks and presentations around the country – we’ve broken the 100,000 mark for the first time, with 110,000 of you seeking advice on teenage parties, drink spiking and alcohol and the law in particular  via the parent area of   - we’ve recently added new materials, but if you have ideas for content that you would like us to feature, please do email Kate via

We hope you find the below useful and may we take this opportunity to wish you a very Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year!

Are teenagers really different? Why do they push boundaries and drive us wild?

While the teenage brain is developing, youngsters are more prone to taking risks, having less empathy and making rash decisions. Two very interesting podcasts by specialists on the development of the teenage brain are available online. Frances Jensen (US) explains why teenagers who drink or take drugs as the brain’s learning pathways are being developed are more likely to struggle with addiction as they get older, which you can view here - Workings of the adolescent brain – she has also written a book for parents on surviving teenagers!

Sarah Jayne Blackmore eloquently shows, and in some detail via a TED talk, how each part of the brain develops at different ages with synaptic pruning and the frontal lobe not developing until well into adulthood. You can also view this via YouTube: -The mysterious workings of the adolescent brain Sarah Jayne Blakemore

More on drink spiking

Following our feature on drink spiking in the Autumn edition of our newsletter, the BBC in Devon and now BBC Scotland have featured drink spiking and how it is on the rise, what signs to look out for and how to help prevent it from happening. We’ve been very pleased to contribute to both these features, to raise awareness and to encourage victims to report drink spiking both to venues where it happened and to the police.

Do view our advice via We’re really pleased that drink spiking is being reported on more widely and that young people are campaigning for more awareness. Girls against Drink Spiking are teaming up with Police Scotland to encourage licensed premises to offer drink lids and bottle protectors which is a great step, for example, if not so good in the war against plastic waste. You can view the report from BBC Scotland here: 


Party survival guide

As the season of parties and festivities gets under way, here are a few reminders for us all so we can survive the party season, whether we’re going out or having friends round!
If you're going to be drinking over several hours - either out on the town or at friends' - you could drink much more than you realise. A great way to stay on top is to alternate soft drinks or water with each alcoholic drink.
Alcohol is dehydrating, so water or long refreshing pacers make a big difference - especially if you're dancing and using energy! All bars and clubs have to offer free tap water, so don't be afraid to ask!
It's very tempting, especially if you're going out straight from college or work, not to eat. Having a quick sandwich or bowl of cereal before you go out will line your stomach and alcohol will not be absorbed so quickly into the bloodstream.
Plan how to get home
Recent polls show that over 30% of young people have taken risks by either going home after a night out on their own or with a stranger. So it’s important to encourage older teenagers to consider how they will get home safely. If they're going out as a group and taking a car, they can decide who's going to be the designated driver. They could all buy non-alcoholic drinks for them and pay for the petrol too. If they’re not taking a car they should arrange a lift in advance, pre-book or have phone numbers for reliable taxi firms, have found out about public transport and put aside enough cash so they don't spend it – or pre pay! If they have to walk home, they shouldn't walk through unlit or unsafe areas or go home on their own.
Watch out for top ups
When topping up drinks, it's easy to kid yourself that you're still on the same drink. Empty your glass first before having another drink so you can keep more of a tally on your intake.
Choose smaller glass sizes
If you're mixing your own drinks, make sure they're not too strong - home pours are usally much larger and glasses bigger too. Use plenty of ice and fruit in drinks or use exotic mixers. If guests are mixing their own, have a spirits measure to hand.
Offer interesting soft drinks
There is a huge variety of soft drinks available - why not experiment and create your own mocktails?t


Growing trend of non-drinking among young people

Non-drinking among young people has increased over the past decade in England. Although we don’t understand the underlying factors driving this social change well, it’s been thought to be partially driven by it being harder to buy and be served alcohol and to drink in public spaces, partly by changes in patterns of socialising with more time spent gaming and online and partly by increasing ethnic diversity. Non-drinking has also been found to be associated with lower income and poorer health. A recent study has tried to identify which sub-groups of young people aren’t drinking, changes in attitudes and whether behaviours are more polarised, or if the reduction is across all young people. Data was taken from the annual cross-sectional nationally-representative Health Survey for England 2005–2015 datasets, which included 9,699 16 to 24 year olds.

Non-drinking has increased from 18% in 2005 to 29% among young people in 2015. Not drinking in the past week increased from 35% to 50%. Those choosing not to drink were from healthier sub-groups (non-smokers, those with high physical activity and good mental health), white ethnicity, north and south regions, in full-time education, and employed. No significant increases in non-drinking were found among smokers, ethnic minorities and those with poor mental health.

The authors believe teenagers are starting to drink later, which is very encouraging as the average age of first whole drink has been age 13 in England and Scotland. Other studies suggest that teenagers who are drinking early are drinking more – and more problematically. What we know for certain is that early onset of drinking of whole drinks is linked with earlier drunkenness, an increase of other negative risk taking such as smoking, cannabis use and an increased risk of problematic drinking later in life. So if you can protect your teenagers from drinking until the CMO guidance of at least 15, this does make a big difference to short term safety as well as longer term problems.
Source: Investigating the growing trend of non-drinking among young people; analysis of repeated cross-sectional surveys in England 2005–2015. Linda N, Nicola Shelton and Noriko Cable. BMC Public Health201818:1090.

Shyness, alcohol use disorders and ‘hangxiety’

This ties in well with a second interesting study into Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) and drinking. Shyness can be considered a subclinical analogue of SAD, yet there is little research into the effect of alcohol on anxiety levels in highly-shy individuals. 97 individuals were tested at home and assigned to either consume alcohol to normal levels (n = 50) or to remain sober (n = 47). Shyness and social phobia measures were taken as well as anxiety before drinking, following a period of alcohol consumption or sobriety, and the following morning.
There was decreased acute anxiety as a result of drinking alcohol among the very shy, but interestingly, this was followed by a marked increase in anxiety the following day.
Source: Shyness, alcohol use disorders and ‘hangxiety’: A naturalistic study of social drinkers BethMarsh, MollyCarlyle, EmilyCarter, PaigeHughes, SarahMcGahey, WillLawn, TobiasStevens, AmyMcAndre Celia J.A.Morgan

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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