Adults may be unwittingly leading young people into problem drinking warns addiction counsellor and Chief Executive of Aiseiri, Paul Conlon, as alcohol awareness week starts.
The head of one of Ireland’s most comprehensive addiction services today said that parents who believe that they are doing the right thing by supervising or controlling drinking settings for their teenagers could actually be enabling problem drinking and addiction risks.
Paul Conlon, Chief Executive of Aiséirí Treatment and Rehabilitation Services, said that successive studies and the experience of Aiséirí, which includes the country’s only addiction and detox service for adolescents, shows that providing alcohol for young people – even if it’s done with the best intentions – increases their risk of problem or hazardous drinking habits.
He was speaking at the launch of the new merged Aiséirí Treatment and Rehabilitation Service, which brings together four previously autonomous addiction centres across the Southeast. The Aiséirí launch also coincides with the start of Alcohol Awareness Week. Conlon urged the Government to invest in family and after-care support services as an essential line of defence against alcohol’s harm to young people particularly.
“Ireland is the easiest place to become an alcoholic and the hardest place to recover,” Conlon said. “Parents and adults may be unwittingly leading young people into problematic drinking and the risk of addiction because of our acceptance of alcohol as part of the family, something you do.”
“Very often parents think they are doing the right thing by allowing their teenage children have their first drink with them,” he continued “They may do so because they believe that young people are going to drink anyway or they may do so because they think it’s progressive, or something they do on the continent.”
He said that 30 years of experience at Aiséiri had shown that problem drinking and addiction were often learnt behaviours. Unhealthy drinking by parents can increase the risk of problem drinking in children. Likewise, providing alcohol for young people, even if it is consumed in supervised adult settings, results in higher levels of harmful alcohol consequences, he said.
He pointed to studies that show that the majority of young adults in Ireland use alcohol in a problematic manner. Over one in three sixth year students could be considered problem drinkers by their consumption levels. Six out of every 100 sixth years could possibly be alcohol dependent (My World Survey, UCD and Headstrong, 2012).
“If we are to tackle alcohol abuse, if we are to educate, prevent and change behaviour, we have to resource services for families,” Conlon said. “This is the first line of defence against many young people’s collision course with alcohol harm and dependency.”
The new combined Aiséirí is the only community and residential addiction service to care for young people, from age 15, to adults who need support for alcohol, drug and gambling addiction. The four centres within the organisation include Aiséiri Aislinn, the country’s only adolescent addiction and detox centre, Aiséiri Tipperary and Wexford which provide recovery services for adults specifically and Aiséiri Céim Eile which provides follow-on facilities for residents.