UK Doctors to Screen Children Over 10 for Alcohol Use

Posted on July 29th, 2009
Posted in Alcohol Abuse

In the UK, all children over age ten will now be routinely asked if they drink alcohol. As alcohol-related deaths skyrocket around the world, new guidelines expected from the British government’s health watchdog will recommend that family doctors screen youngsters for alcohol abuse during their first appointment or routine visits. These guidelines aim to curb the damage caused to young binge drinkers.

Last week a 22-year-old Essex man died of liver cirrhosis after being denied a liver transplant because he was too ill to prove that he could remain sober. He had been drinking heavily since age 13. Gary Reinbach’s mother, Madeline Hanshaw, blamed the availability of cheap alcohol on her son’s death. She said, “It is too easy for young people to get alcohol. You can buy a bottle of whiskey for about £7.”

The guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) are intended to detect children and adolescents who drink heavily before they become addicted. “If a child is coming for their first appointment, there is an opportunity for a nurse or doctor to ask them some basic questions about their drinking,” said Don Shenker, chief executive of Alcohol Concern and a member of the group drafting the guidelines.

The guidelines come after Sir Liam Donaldson, the chief medical officer, called for all cans and bottles of alcohol to display health warnings. Donaldson said there were strong grounds for making the labels compulsory if the beverage industry failed to introduce them voluntarily.

Donaldson also said that he was glad the government is still considering a minimum price per until of alcohol of 50p, which would mean a bottle of wine would cost at least £4.50, a 700 ml bottle of whiskey would cost at least £14, and six cans of beer would cost at least £6.
 

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