Seven young people in the 12-18 age range were admitted to hospital with acute intoxication in 2012/13, according to drink figures issued by NHS Shetland.
This was slightly down on previous years, and none of the people admitted was under the age of 16. In the past people under that age have been hospitalised due to intoxication.
Health improvement manager Elizabeth Robinson said: “We do seem to be seeing a fall in the numbers of young people in Shetland drinking to excess, which is really good, and young people here seem to be really good at looking after each other, getting their pals home or to hospital when they’re drunk.
“However, we know from research that one in five girls aged 14 to 15 goes further than they wanted to in a sexual experience after drinking alcohol and drinking alcohol lowers people’s inhibitions, making them more likely to do things they would otherwise not do.
“Drinking a lot of alcohol at any age presents health risks and causes careless behaviour, but because young people’s bodies are still growing, alcohol can interfere with their development and cause long term damage. The best way to show your pals you care is to stop them before they get drunk and sick.”
Meanwhile, although the number of young people with acute intoxication may have fallen slightly, the overall number of hospital admissions in which alcohol was a factor has remained fairly steady in the last 10 years.
At NHS Shetland’s annual review meeting on Tuesday, director of public health Sarah Taylor said 2003/4, when there were around 100 (a rough estimate based on the health board statistics of 500 admissions per 100,000 population) had been a particularly low year.
By contrast 2011/12, when the admissions rate had nearly doubled, was a particular spike and this year, 2012/13, has seen the number drop to the level of previous years.
Dr Taylor said that in 2011/12, the spike was due to a small number of older adults of both sexes in their 50s and 60s with lifetime drinking problems who presented a number of times with chronic diseases which often cause early death.
Dr Taylor said: “We need to tackle this. People turn to alcohol to address life problems, but it is not a productive way of dealing with them as it causes harm. We want people to seek help for their problems, not resort to alcohol, and ask for help if can’t deal with [alcohol problems] themselves.”
Another category with contributed to last year’s spike was young adults in their 20s who come in intoxicated. Dr Taylor said that men are often injured in falls or fights, whereas women fall and make themselves vulnerable. Both sexes suffer some mental distress in these cases.
Although the two groups of patients, the older and the younger, accounted for the spike in 2011/12, no “real significance” could be attached to it. However, she said that both “represent sections of the population with a problem”.