Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Young people's perceptions of alcohol

Last week I made reference to the Labour Party Conference being proof that young people learn about alcohol from the way adults around them drink - because they are sad, happy, upset, furious, or of course, for no other reason than they want a drink. My experience and behaviour at the Conservative Party Conference was similar - very late nights and too much to drink at least once, possibly twice.

Last week the British Youth Council launched a report about young people's experiences of alcohol, Sex and drinking - young people's experiences. As part of the report a survey of 1,000 young people found that there were strong links between drinking alcohol and having unsafe sex, almost one in three young people said the first time they had sex they had been drinking, and of these one in five would not have had sex if they were sober.

This supports what we already know that if young people have been drinking they are more likely to regret having sex and less likely to use contraception.

Most of the young people surveyed agreed that advice and information about avoiding drinking which might lead to having unsafe or regretted sex should be available in sexual health clinics. And of course, that is already happening in some places in both education and clinical services.

Brook has produced a new 'alcohol version' of our Have fun, be careful poster to remind young people if they are going to have sex to always use a condom to protect against unplanned pregnancy and STIs (see www.brook.org.uk for further information).

Posters, leaflets and discussions in education about the links between sexual risk taking and other drugs is crucial, but it is not the task. The task is to shift our culture around alcohol so young people are learning about safe and responsible drinking from the adults around them.

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