Cyprus Mail

Alarm over level of binge drinking

CYPRUS is in the top three out of 36 countries in Europe for binge-drinking teens and shows one of the highest increases and most alarming increase in the phenomenon among girls since the last study by the European School Survey Project (ESPAD), its report showed on Monday.

In addition, it emerged that Cypriot teens ranked third when it came to engaging in online gambling.

The results of the ESPAD report on Alcohol and Other Drugs for 2015 were presented on Monday by the education ministry and the Anti-Drugs Council, and concerned research conducted last year among 2,098 students born in 1999, both from public and private schools.

According to the results, Cyprus ranked second among 36 countries when it came to use of alcohol in the past 30 days and in terms of binge drinking, which is classed as imbibing five or more drinks in one sitting.

“Both last-30-day alcohol use and last-30-day heavy episodic drinking were clearly more commonly reported in Cyprus, since these two were 20 and 15 percentage points above the [European] average, respectively,” the report said.

According to the report, the overall picture as regards Cyprus, “is that alcohol use seems to be more common while cannabis use seems to be less so”. It added that Cypriot students reported substance use prevalence rates of more or less the same magnitude as the ESPAD average for five of the eight key variables studied when it came to marijuana use.

The scientific head of the non-governmental organisation against the use of drugs Kenthea, Kyriacos Veresies, said that as regards accessibility to alcohol, Cyprus was ranked ninth among the 36 countries that participated in the survey.

“What is very worrying, that puts Cyprus in one of the (top) three European countries, is excessive alcohol consumption. Countries that are marked with red… are Cyprus, Moldova, Montenegro and Albania. The increase in Cyprus is almost first in Europe,” he said.

Veresies added that one third of students at European level, said that they could get cannabis easily, while 23 per cent of boys and eight per cent of girls said they also engaged in online gambling.  Cyprus, Veresies said, rates third as regards online gambling among the 36 countries.

Ioanna Yasemi of the Anti-Drugs Council, said that as regards smoking on a daily basis, there had been a steady decline since 2007 and Cyprus was now at the same level with the European average. She added that around four per cent of students said they began smoking at the age of 13 or earlier, which is around the European average.

As regard alcohol consumption, Yasemi said, a significant decrease had been recorded among boys since 2011, while there was a steady variable among girls. There was however, she said, an alarming rate as to excessive consumption of alcohol in one occasion – five or more drinks – and Cyprus was a lot higher that the European average.

Education Minister Costas Kadis said that his ministry has been making huge efforts for prevention on additive substances. He mentioned however, the role society in general has in influencing its youth.

“Events occurring in society may either reinforce or cancel out information acquired in the classroom,” he said.

“The role of each actor in strengthening the culture of prevention of the use of addictive substances becomes essential, since we know through European surveys that the use of addictive substances, particularly in adolescence, is eminently a social phenomenon.”

He added that he had recently sent a letter to parliament stressing the problem of easy access for young people to alcohol and asked for joint actions to address it.

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