Adolescents in the UK have one of the highest European levels of alcohol use, binge-drinking and getting drunk. Around 125,000 young people a year attend A&E with severe facial injuries, often associated with alcohol-related falls and assaults. Saving Faces has been working with the Department of Health to inform young people of the consequences of binge drinking. Professor Iain Hutchison also featured on the ITV1 documentary “The Truth About Binge Drinking”.
Alcohol is the drug of choice for many teenagers and their drinking habits arouse considerable concern due to the prevalence of alcohol consumption and the amount drunk. Regular heavy alcohol consumption and binge drinking are associated with physical problems, antisocial behaviour, violence, accidents, suicide, accidental death, injuries and road traffic accidents. Alcohol misuse can also affect school performance and crime. It is associated with a range of mental disorders and can exacerbate existing mental health problems. Adolescents report having more risky sex when they are under the influence of alcohol; they may be less likely to use contraception and more likely to have sex early or have sex they later regret. Early onset of alcohol use has also been found to be associated with an increased likelihood of later alcohol dependence.
Many teenagers believe that getting drunk is an important part of enjoying themselves and will not respond to abstention messages. They see binge drinking as a rite of passage into adulthood. A more realistic goal is therefore to encourage them to avoid risky drinking. To achieve this goal, education needs to incorporate an understanding of attitudes, beliefs and expectations relating to alcohol. A recent qualitative study explored the social context of binge drinking in young people and their views on policies that aim to tackle alcohol-related crime and disorder.
In 2007 and 2008 Oral and Maxillofacial sugeons went into schools throughout England to deliver graphic presentations on the link between binge drinking and facial injury. Almost 7000 pupils completed follow-up questionnaires. The results of these have been compared to the data collected in baseline questionnaires to analyse whether the presentation has had any effect on the pupils. The results have been reported to the Department of Education.
In September 2008, Saving Faces, working with A&E Departments around the country conducted a national audit of facial injuries, recording all facial injuries presenting at A&E over a period of one week. This study was a follow-up to an earlier study conducted 10 years ago which recorded facial injuries for the first time. This follow up study investigated the changes in the types of injuries recorded and the role that aspects such as excessive drinking play in how patients sustain injuries. Researchers and medical students from Saving Faces worked with surgeons to record the data throughout the UK.