Czech teens, Europe's heaviest underage drinkers

July 11, 2012 by Jan Flemr

Shaken awake by police on a park bench, a 12-year-old boy from Prague was so drunk he could neither walk nor talk -- grim evidence of an unparalleled alcohol scourge affecting underage Czechs.

The boy was one of seven whom police found falling-down drunk in the Czech capital on the last day of school in late June.

"In 2011 we had more cases, but this year was worse because the kids were far more drunk," Prague police spokeswoman Jana Prikrylova told AFP.

The bleak trend visible on Czech streets was confirmed in May by the European School Survey Project on and Other Drugs (ESPAD), which singled out Czech 15- and 16-year-olds as the continent's heaviest drinkers.

A jaw-dropping 93 percent of Czech youth, including equal numbers of girls and boys, said they had consumed alcohol over the past year, while nearly 80 percent admitted to drinking within the last month.

Experts blame easy access, lax law enforcement and a tolerant attitude toward alcohol abuse in the beer-loving central European nation, which was second only to Moldova last year on the 's worldwide survey of adult .

"It's a big problem, and I think we've been somewhat asleep on it," Jindrich Voboril, the government's drug abuse policy coordinator, told AFP.

"Studies have been suggesting a long-term increase, plus there is a visible decrease in age and a change in usage -- the kids now tend to drink spirits," he said, adding that the of 18 is widely flouted.

Voboril also warned that regularly between ages 12 and 16 carries an increased risk of later on, noting that the ESPAD study also identified young Czechs as Europe's top .

-- Turning a blind eye --

In years gone by, Czech fathers sent their sons with jars to pubs to fetch beer to help them digest hearty pork-and-dumplings Sunday lunches.

These days, they often share the beer with their kids. Czech youngsters drink in pubs, parks, at home, at discos or summer camps, and even in some cases on holidays with their parents and at school, surveys have shown.

Nearly all of the 15-year-olds in the industrial eastern Czech city of Ostrava have had alcohol, mostly vodka, beer and wine, a recent survey by the DNES broadsheet daily said. One boy said his grandmother gave him beer "to digest lunch."

Bartenders share the laissez-faire attitude, often willing to pour more rounds, even for tweens, on the strength of a good tip.

"I first got really drunk at 16 -- but that age seems OK to me now. When we go to a disco these days, we see 12-year-old girls, makeup and all, lying under tables totally wasted," Matej, an 18-year-old studying in Prague who gave only his first name, told AFP.

For a little extra cash, random strangers will also buy a bottle for kids at the local shop.

But many shopowners turn a blind eye and sell drinks directly to underage customers.

They can also buy alcohol on the Internet where shops run no identity checks, Matej said.

The ex-communist EU nation of 10.5 million has the world's highest rate of beer guzzling, estimated at 134 litres (35 gallons) per head in 2010.

Although no hard figures are available on the rate of alcoholism in the Czech Republic, last year hospitals treated nearly 27,000 people for including more than 500 underage drinkers, health authorities said.

Of 266 million adults in the European Union who drink, an estimated 23 million are addicted, according to a recent EU study on alcohol production and use across the 27-member bloc.

It is the globe's hardest-drinking region, with adults guzzling an annual average of 11 litres of pure alcohol, down from a peak of 15 litres in the mid-1970s.

A quarter of the world's alcoholic beverages and more than half of its wine originates in Europe, and the EU accounts for 70 percent of global export sales.

Czech beer is among the most popular imports.

Explore further: Russia targets beer in fight against alcoholism

Related Stories

Russia targets beer in fight against alcoholism

September 14, 2011
With a stroke of the presidential pen, beer was recently reclassified as an alcoholic drink in Russia, no longer a foodstuff, and its sales are to be restricted to cut alcohol abuse.

Alcohol brands influence teen drinking preferences

July 6, 2011
American adolescents are hitting the hard stuff, according to a new report from Dartmouth Medical School and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health published in the July issue of the journal Archives of Pediatrics ...

Chinese culture encourages binge drinking in middle-aged men

July 19, 2011
A nationwide study confirms that binge drinking has reached epidemic proportions in China and argues that efforts to tackle the problem must address the country's unique drinking culture.

Recommended for you

Incorporating 12-step program elements improves youth substance-use disorder treatment

July 26, 2017
A treatment program for adolescents with substance-use disorder that incorporates the practices and philosophy of 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) produced even better results than the current state-of-the ...

Concern with potential rise in super-potent cannabis concentrates

July 21, 2017
University of Queensland researchers are concerned the recent legalisation of medicinal cannabis in Australia may give rise to super-potent cannabis concentrates with associated harmful effects.

Findings link aldosterone with alcohol use disorder

July 18, 2017
A new study led by scientists at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), part of the National Institutes of Health, demonstrates that aldosterone, a hormone produced in the adrenal glands, may contribute ...

Depression among young teens linked to cannabis use at 18

July 17, 2017
A study looking at the cumulative effects of depression in youth, found that young people with chronic or severe forms of depression were at elevated risk for developing a problem with cannabis in later adolescence.

Why does prenatal alcohol exposure increase the likelihood of addiction?

July 7, 2017
One of the many negative consequences when fetuses are exposed to alcohol in the womb is an increased risk for drug addiction later in life. Neuroscientists in the University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions are ...

Researchers say U.S. policies on drugs and addiction could use a dose of neuroscience

June 23, 2017
Tens of thousands of Americans die from drug overdoses every year – around 50,000 in 2015 – and the number has been steadily climbing for at least the last decade and a half, according to the National Institute on Drug ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.