March 14, 2011

Three-Year-Old Brit Diagnosed With Alcoholism

British health officials said on Monday that a three-year-old child who was treated in the hospital for addiction to alcohol is thought to be the country's youngest alcoholic ever.

The child was one of 13 people under the age of 12 who were diagnosed as alcoholics by the state-run National Health Service (NHS) in central England between the years 2008 and 2010.

An NHS spokeswoman told the AFP news agency: "We treat alcohol abuse very seriously, and have specialist teams and experts on hand who are there to treat young patients with alcohol-related problems."

The news highlights Britain's uphill struggle to curb its heavy-drinking culture.  NHS first revealed the news after a request under the Freedom of Information laws.

It came on the same day that leading health groups blasted a government initiative on alcohol, which involves asking firms to sign up to pledges to cut binge and underage drinking.

The groups accused the health ministry of letting the drinks industry dictate policy and condemn the pledges as neither specific nor measurable.  The groups include the British Medical Association and the charity Alcohol Concern.

Nicolay Sorensen, a spokesman for Alcohol Concern, told The Telegraph: "To be diagnosed alcoholic, it's possible this child would have shown a physical dependency. They would have had to ingest enough to cause withdrawal symptoms.

"Whatever the circumstances, it is a truly horrifying case and raises very serious child protection issues."

There were 106 teenagers between ages 13 and 16 that were treated for alcoholism from 2008 through 2010. 

Sarah Matthews, spokeswoman for the British Liver Trust, told The Telegraph: "This is an extreme case and definitely one of the youngest cases of alcoholism we have heard of."

"However, it does raise the issue of the accessibility of alcohol and how normal it has become. The power of cheap alcohol, availability and promotion makes it very difficult for people to consider their health when making decisions about if they drink and how much."

Drinkaware, an alcohol awareness group, said that childhood drinking could disrupt brain development.  An eight-year-old child from Dundee was diagnosed with alcoholism last month.

According to Fox News, reports said that she started raiding her parents' drinks and then developed "a serious problem," getting "steaming drunk" four or five times a week.

The three-year-old British toddler is thought to have been given booze repeatedly for six months and would have suffered withdrawal symptoms of shakes and wild mood swings. 


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