Doctors report increasing alcohol use among children

Doctors blame a lack of awareness by parents and easy access to alcohol from local kiosks.

Doctors are warning parents to be more alert to their children's activities after a spate of youngsters were brought in to Haifa hospitals with alcohol poisoning in recent weeks, reports the Hebrew weekly Yediot Haifa. Doctors say the age of drinkers is falling, with children as young as 10 to 14 being hospitalized, and they blame a lack of awareness by parents and easy access to alcohol from local kiosks that do not abide by laws prohibiting the sale of alcohol to minors. According to the report, in one of the most shocking incidents, a 10-year-old girl was brought into Rambam Hospital unconscious and suffering from alcohol poisoning, and there have been a number of 12- to 14-year-old girls and boys hospitalized after being brought in intoxicated or unconscious. The head of children's medicine at Rambam Hospital, Dr. Itai Shavit, said the young girl had been discovered unconscious in a public park, and had been found to have severe alcohol poisoning. After she regained consciousness, she was unable to remember anything about the night, including what she had drunk, who had been with her, and what had happened before she passed out. Dr. Shavit said children and many parents were unaware of the dangers of excessive drinking, and that someone who was severely intoxicated could choke to death on their own vomit. The doctor placed part of the blame on the many kiosks around the city that were willing to sell alcohol to any buyer. And the head of the teenage health unit at Bnai Zion Hospital, Dr. Noga Keren, said drunken teens were at risk of being sexually assaulted, and her hospital had treated several girls who had been attacked while inebriated. Dr. Keren said that while many teenagers began experimenting with drinking alcohol in small amounts, they would often move on quickly to drinking excessive quantities. "I want to emphasize that if a teenager does decide to drink, he should do so wisely, not on an empty stomach, not mixing the alcohol with other substances, and especially not driving after drinking," Dr. Keren said.