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Vodka epidemic in England

 Last week, I wrote about being stranded in England for nine days due to Iceland's volcanic eruption, how this provided time to do some interesting research, i.e. why it's dangerous to drive after a blazing row with your partner, the possible hazards of mobile phones and other medical concerns. This week, the topic is a tragic epidemic not due to a deadly viral agent.

 During a visit to St. Thomas' Hospital in London and later in Cardiff, Wales, emergency room doctors told me about the vodka epidemic. They reported that thousands of middle-class teenage girls were drinking themselves senseless on neat vodka, sometimes with deadly results. I obviously asked, "Why is this happening?"

 Professor Roger Williams, England's foremost expert on liver disease, says, "Vodka is cleverly marketed with words such as 'pure' which makes it appear glamorous and safe. Moreover, teenagers think it's easy to disguise as it's more difficult to smell on the breath."

 A few days after leaving Cardiff I noticed an article in the Daily Mail newspaper written by Penny Marshall. She relates how one teenage girl, who had never drunk vodka before, consumed half a bottle.Twenty minutes later she was lying unconscious in her best friend's home. She, along with other friends, had been left alone to celebrate a 15th birthday!

 Her shocked parents arrived home just in time to see their daughter being whisked away in an ambulance to have her stomach pumped out. This event didn't occur in the poor part of London. As her stunned mother explained, "These are the kind of children who write thank-you letters to grandparents at Christmas."

 This may be the last party her parents allow without supervision.

 Home Office statistics report that in 2009 more than 100 girls a week ended up in hospital due to binge drinking. And that 4,939 girls between 14 and 17 years of age were treated for alcohol poisoning during the past five years. During the same time 1,776 boys were seen for the same reason. Getting stoned three times more often than older men seems a strange way to reach equality with them.

 So why do they do it? One 15-year-old girl told Penny Marshall, "It makes us feel strong, exciting and sexy. We arrive at parties ready to wow the boys."

 Incredibly, one girl remarked, "It isn't a proper party unless an ambulance comes!"

 Ambulances arrive because these girls are drinking 40 per cent proof vodka. They do not realize that women need drink only half as much alcohol as men to be drunk, due to physiological differences.

 Getting drunk is one problem, becoming pregnant, another matter. An estimated 40 per cent of 13 and 14 year olds reported being drunk the first time they had sex. In fact, one in 10 admitted being so drunk they could not remember if they had sex the night before.

 Social workers in Liverpool, England, had more alarming news. Last year 68 per cent of pregnancies in Liverpool occurred in unwed girls. And that by the year 2015 it's estimated that 50 per cent of all pregnancies in England will be the same. If this doesn't spell social chaos I don't know what will.

 There's also concern in England over the increase in drinking among middle-aged women. A survey showed that one in five older women is a binge drinker and more are tippling at home. During the past 10 years deaths from excessive alcohol consumption have soared 40 per cent.

 So beneath the peaceful surface of England's rolling countryside there are major medical and social problems. I rarely picked up a newspaper without reading that an innocent bystander had been killed or stabbed to death by someone addicted to cocaine and other drugs.

 I left England wondering whether those running the welfare system were also on crack cocaine when allowing such ridiculous abuses. Headline news exposed one family with eight children who planned having six more.

 Why? They could make more money this way than by working, because the state hands them $62,000 a year. Now they're demanding a larger home, courtesy of taxpayers! Not all crazies are in the asylum.

posted on 06/01/10
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