Irish Students Abuse Alcohol More Often than Other European Teens

A long running joke goes something like:

Q: “Why did God invent beer?”
A: “To keep the Irish from taking over the world.”

underage-drinkingThe Irish have always been known for their preference for alcohol; until now, I thought it was just a stereotype that should not be taken too seriously. Turns out though, maybe it is based on the truth.

A recent European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs revealed that 47 percent of Irish 15- to 16-year-olds have been drunk in the past year. This is higher than the European average, which is still high at 39 percent.

The legal drinking age in Europe is 18, so drinking alcohol at 16 is not as unheard of there as it is in the U.S. In fact, 90 percent of students surveyed had tasted alcohol in the past year. But that could mean a glass of wine at dinner. It did not mean “staggering when walking, slurred speech or throwing up,” which is how the survey defined drunkenness.

Irish students were also more likely to have smoked marijuana than students who lived on the continent, and Irish girls smoke more than Irish boys. Irish teens are less likely to abuse sedatives or tranquillizers, but they are more likely to abuse inhalants.

Some critics say it is the parents’ fault that teens are going out and getting drunk. Personally, I think it is the bartenders’ fault. In America, it’s almost impossible to buy alcohol if you do have a valid ID that says you are of the legal drinking age. When I’ve studied abroad, I was rarely asked to prove my age. It was shocking how easily I could have bought alcohol when I was 16 in Europe.

Of course, the real blame falls on the students. It only takes getting drunk/smashed/wasted once to realize when you have reached your limit and should stop drinking. Alcohol abuse caused 670 teenager deaths in 2001 in Ireland. It can also cause less serious effects, like drama between friends and major hangovers, and can make the number on the scale go up. (Not that the last one is a huge problem, unless it’s the weeks before prom and your dress doesn’t zip up anymore because you drank too many beers.)

Check out this list for tips on how to drink safely and not end up too drunk.

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