Parents 'missing' teen boozing

Last updated 13:00 17/10/2012
Drinking pic STD
YVETTE BATTEN/Fairfax NZ
PROBLEM: A number of teens are helped into buying alcohol by people of the legal age.

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A night on the booze for Nelson teenagers can quickly go from a few quiet drinks with the boys to a bender - with those who are inexperienced with drinking liable to wind up in hospital.

Such stories come from a series of interviews with 19 year 13 teens from the region's high schools. To allow for frank discussion, the teenagers are not named.

Most were under 18 and had to obtain their alcohol from those over the legal age.

One claimed he had approached attractive female German tourists in the supermarket and asked them to buy him alcohol.

"It happened twice," he said.

Aside from such tall tales, most said their parents were the primary source, usually because they thought teens were responsible and reliable and they hoped to cut down on the amount the teens drank.

But comments from some teens suggest parents might be naive if they think the small amount they give their son or daughter is all they are drinking.

They often supplemented their supply with alcohol from other sources. Some asked their parents to buy alcohol for other people as well, then kept the extra for themselves.

But others said their parents' strategy worked to prevent them getting out of control.

Alcohol intake varied, with some hardly ever going out, and others out almost every weekend.

Many had a few drinks with their parents, and did not go any further, they said.

Among those who did drink, some nights were spent "chilling out with the boys with a box of beers next to the couch". There were other nights where quite a bit more is consumed.

"It depends what's on. Sometimes you go out and have a bender, but you can have a two-week holiday where nothing happens," one said.

A night out could start at friend's houses, drinking beers or "bitch-drinks" - pre-mixed drinks like Cruisers and KGBs, chosen because they are easy to drink and a good way to "get you started".

Other teens picked up a "goon" - the bladder from a cask of wine - or bottles of spirits, bourbon and vodka being particularly popular.

Some then went to parties, or into Nelson to visit the pubs and clubs. Many did so before they were 18, and without having their ID checked.

So how do teens, at the stage of their lives when they will supposedly do the most experimentation, make sure they do not go too far?

Most agreed that there was a level - described by one as "on the ground drunk, not fun drunk, dangerous drunk" - and many had already found theirs.

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Getting to such a level showed them what it was like, and the negative effects stopped them from trying it again, one said.

It also made it less likely they would similarly embarrass themselves when they get older.

Although none of the teens interviewed had injured themselves while drunk, all knew of people who had.

Drink-driving, while generally frowned upon, still happened. Those interviewed spoke derisively of others who enjoyed telling such "battle stories" of near-misses.

Some said they had stolen people's car keys after seeing they were not fit to drive, and most refused to get in a car with a driver who was drunk.

When it comes time to lighting up a smoke, most Nelson teenagers would rather it was cannabis than tobacco. Most teenagers seem to have an aversion to the smoking habit.

Only a few said they smoked.

Of those who did, they only did so in social situations.

Attitudes toward tobacco ranged from apathy to outright hatred.

"It's not cool, but no-one really cares," one teen said.

Another said smoking was "a waste of money for what it's doing to you".

While only a few copped to smoking tobacco, almost all agreed cannabis was more socially acceptable than cigarettes.

Some speculated that frequent anti-smoking advertisements on television had turned a generation off smoking.

However, because of a lack of similar ads discouraging cannabis consumption this meant they saw nothing wrong with it.

When asked, most students were confident they could get their hands on cannabis by the end of the day.

"Everyone knows someone who is a dealer," one said.

But some were concerned about the impact on their health or the risk of addiction.

It was acceptable if you were high with other people, but a different story if you were at home by yourself, they said.

One teen said its use was a huge part of life in her community. "You can't escape it here. It's a sad reality."

Many agreed that those who had smoked cannabis a lot and from an early age - some of whom had been former students before dropping out - had screwed up their brains.

But although marijuana was common enough in their age group, there were some who had drawn a line.

Their reasoning was that they could regulate their alcohol intake, and hence their sobriety, more easily than with a harder drug.

While cannabis was the main drug to be widely used by their age-group, the teens all knew of people who had used harder drugs like ecstasy or magic mushrooms.

"Mushrooms are common.

"It's kind of the next step from marijuana, you're actually doing quite a hard drug.

"I think it carries a bit more weight."

- Nelson

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