Teenage drinking statistics fall, while Tamworth counsellor says drug use is up

OFF THE BOTTLE: New figures reveal more teens are steering clear of alcohol.
OFF THE BOTTLE: New figures reveal more teens are steering clear of alcohol.

NEW figures have revealed teens are largely turning away from grog, but a Tamworth counsellor says there’s been more illicit drug use amongst youngsters.

A national survey of household drug and alcohol use found teens are teetotalling in larger numbers than ever and are waiting longer to have their first drink.

The latest figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found 82 per cent of children 12 to 17 abstained completely from alcohol, which was up 10 per cent from figures recorded in 2013.

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In 2004, only 54.3 per cent of teenagers were on the wagon.

The first tipple was also coming later in life at 16.1-years-old, however, in 2001, people were having their taste of alcohol at 14.7-years-old.

At times, it is generational with teens seeing drug use as OK [and] normal.

Drug and alcohol counsellor Peter France

While teen-drinking appears to be becoming passe, Tamworth Aboriginal Medical Service counsellor Peter France agreed drug use has increased in this period, often stemming from family use.

“I have observed more illicit drug use from teens,” Mr France said.

“At times, it is generational with teens seeing drug use as OK [and] normal, again family members providing these drugs.”

He said there was an increased number of teens with awareness on safe levels of drinking, but there was “a large number of unsupervised teens accessing alcohol and binge drinking”.

Mr France said there seemed to be a rise in “teens experiencing drug-induced psychosis” locally.

“Alcohol or other drug use can effect brain development,” he said.

“There seems to have been a rise in teens experiencing drug induced psychosis, this most certainly effects long term mental health and, of course, anxiety followed by depression are the most common side effects.”

The drug and alcohol counsellor said there were many reasons teens turned to substances.

“It may be because of trauma they have experienced, it may be generational behavior, peer pressure, boredom, there are many reasons,” he said. 

Teens may be boozing less, but 77 per cent of Australians knocked back a drink in 2016, according to the survey.

Around one-in-seven (15.4 per cent) said they had more than 11 standard drinks in a session in the past 12 months, with 7.1 per cent of that group saying they had done so monthly.