THREE areas of Scotland have some of the highest teenage alcohol problems in the UK, with hundreds of children attending accident and emergency units after drinking too much, new figures show.
Ayrshire and Arran had the highest number of under-18s admitted, with 483 in 2012/13. Grampian was second with 304 and Greater Glasgow and Clyde was fourth with 272.
Only 125 out of 189 UK health trusts responded to the Freedom of Information request by the BBC. The figures provide an insight into the alcohol problems of UK children, which experts say are most acute in Scotland.
There were also 291 under-11s admitted to A&E because of alcohol across the UK, more than in any of the four previous years.
Dr Morten Draegebo, consultant in emergency medicine at NHS Ayrshire and Arran, said: “Drinking alcohol not only puts the young person in immediate danger, but can cause potentially lifelong damage to the body.
“Young people’s bodies are not developed fully enough to be able to consume alcohol. Children and young people who attend our emergency departments are often very distressed and vulnerable, and run the risk of being exposed to physical or sexual assault as a result of being intoxicated.
“Alcohol-related hospital admissions are higher in Scotland than any other part of the UK.
“The effects of alcohol misuse are also linked with poorer health outcomes, crime, deprivation and social consequences.
“That is why NHS Ayrshire and Arran has made tackling alcohol use one of its top four priorities for improving health.”
There are also concerns about how alcohol is marketed to young people. Dr Evelyn Gillan, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: “It is seriously concerning that primary school children are being admitted to A&E after drinking alcohol.
“Children are especially vulnerable to the damaging effects of alcohol, and drinking at such a young age can have immediate negative effects as well as increasing the risk of problem drinking later in life.
“Alcohol companies are increasingly talking to young people through social media, an area of alcohol marketing that is virtually unregulated. Our children are not being protected from the damaging effects of alcohol. We must do more to keep them healthy and safe.”
Across the UK, more than 6,500 under-18s were admitted to A&E departments in 2012/13 with alcohol-related conditions.
Between the ages of 12 and 17, girls were more likely to need hospital treatment than boys.
Overall, the number of attendances at A&E for under-18s with alcohol-related conditions fell from 7,821 in 2011/12 to 6,580 in 2012/13.
Michael Matheson, the Scottish Government minister for public health, said: “Whilst we have seen recent falls in alcohol related hospital admissions, there are, on average, over 700 hospital discharges and 20 deaths per week due to alcohol misuse. That is why we are committed to introducing minimum unit pricing which will address the availability of high strength low-cost alcohol.”