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Our teenage girl boozers
Toxic mix: Cheap drinks and legal highs are blamed but only one in three hospital admissions are underage boys
ACCIDENT and emergerncy departments across the county are now dealing with rising numbers of underage girls sick with too much drink or drugs.
Cut-price booze and easy access to legal highs have been blamed for a near 20 per cent rise of admissions in the last two years, which has seen 166 girls under 18 and 75 boys under 18 treated in hospital. Girls aged between 15 and 17 appear to be most at risk.
Charities warn that its the mix of vulnerability – as seen in the Bullfinch sex ring case – alongside legal highs freely available on the internet and cheap alcohol that is proving so toxic for Oxfordshire’s young people.
Oxfordshire Addaction, a young person’s drug and alcohol treatment charity, has called on the Government to make tough decisions to tackle the problem.
The group said implementing a minimum unit price was vital, and more research was needed into the booming legal high market.
Spokesman Elliot Elam said: “These statistics are certainly high, and at Addaction we’re finding that a lot of young women are being admitted to hospital because of alcohol and drugs.
“One major factor across the UK, and not just in Oxfordshire, is that alcohol is more available and affordable than ever before.
“Young women – just like the rest of society – are drinking far more than they used to, and that can often lead to problems at A&E.
“With drugs, we would like them to look at the real benefits of both education and treatment, and to invest in services such as ours that can deal with the use of emerging legal highs.
“Little is known about these new substances – not least how they affect people who have taken other drugs or who have been drinking.”
Nicola Blackwood, MP for Oxford and Abingdon, has campaigned for greater awareness of the problems vulnerable young girls face in the wake of Operation Bullfinch.
And she said early intervention was critical.
Ms Blackwood, below, said: “Drug and alcohol abuse amongst young people can be an indicator of an underlying problem like bullying at school, domestic abuse at home or even, as we have seen recently, sexual exploitation.
“While pushing boundaries is an inevitable part of growing up, parents, schools, health services and other agencies need to share information to get to the bottom of why these numbers are increasing, especially amongst girls.
“Solutions to limit supply of drugs and alcohol through enforcement will help, but you also need to address the increase of demand through education and early intervention.”
Oxfordshire hospitals are admitting more than two underage girls a week for drink or drug related mishaps. Girls under the age of 18 are also three times more likely than boys to end up in hospital.
A Freedom of Information request revealed that in 2012/13, Oxford’s John Radcliffe (JR) Hospital admitted 122 girls for drink and drug mishaps compared with 57 boys.
According to the figures at the Horton General in 2012/13, there were 44 girls admitted for overdosing on either drink or drugs, compared to 18 boys.
Eric Appleby, chief executive of Alcohol Concern said: “We’ve got to get a grip on the negative relationship too many young people have with alcohol. We can start to make a change by introducing a minimum unit price and restricting alcohol advertising.”
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