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Young people urged to play it safe during Schoolies Week

09 Nov 2012

AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, said today that school leavers could enjoy their much-deserved fun and relaxation during Schoolies Week 2012 without resorting to binge drinking, which can often lead to other unhealthy or unsafe behaviour.

The Schoolies Week season commences from 17 November in NSW and Queensland, with other States to follow in coming weeks.

In the lead-up to Schoolies Week, Dr Hambleton will tomorrow officially open the Cringe the Binge National Weekend of Action in Byron Bay, one of the most popular destinations for school leavers looking to unwind after their exams.

Cringe the Binge is a community-wide Byron Bay movement that is promoting the message that young people can have a good time without alcohol and binge drinking.

Dr Hambleton said that Schoolies Week is a great way for young people to celebrate the transition from secondary school to university, employment, travel, or a gap year.

“It is important that young people celebrate in a way that doesn’t see them ending up in emergency departments or in other unwanted situations that could change the course of their young lives or the lives of others,” Dr Hambleton said.

“Young people should play it safe in Schoolies Week,” Dr Hambleton said.

“They are travelling to some of the most beautiful holiday spots in the country and they should take the opportunity to relax, share time with their friends, make new friends, and enjoy the beaches and other local attractions.

“Celebrating the end of school and beginning a new stage of life should be about positive experiences and good memories, not accidents or misadventures.

“All it takes is common sense – do not binge drink, be alert to drink ‘spiking’, avoid drugs, do not drink and drive, avoid balconies if intoxicated, be cautious when texting or tweeting or using other forms of social media, and use sun protection when outdoors.

“Misuse of alcohol and drugs can lead to accident, injury, antisocial and embarrassing behaviour, and even violence.

“Photos of young people who are drunk, disorderly, sick from excess alcohol, aggressive or violent can be sent to thousands of people, including family, in an instant via social media.

“Aggressive or impulsive acts can harm the aggressor and others, and have effects that go well beyond Schoolies Week.

“Students should be equally careful and cautious about their sexual health.  Young people can feel pressured to have sex.  They should know that it’s okay to say ‘NO’.

“But, overall, the positive messages are getting through - it is encouraging that increasing numbers of schoolies are choosing not to drink or take drugs and are still having a good time.

“The most important thing is for young people to look after themselves and look after their mates,” Dr Hambleton said.

Background:

Alcohol

  • The AMA has serious concerns about the targeting marketing of alcohol to young people.  The glamorisation of alcohol to young people can lead them to believe that they should engage in binge drinking. For more information go to https://ama.com.au/alcohol-marketing-and-young-people;
  • Young brains are particularly vulnerable to the effects of alcohol and, as a result, young people may be more likely to exercise poor judgement or suffer from impaired decision making;
  • Alcohol is a causal factor in about 60 types of diseases and injuries and a component cause in perhaps 200 others;
  • People aged 18–29 are more likely than any other age group to drink alcohol in risky quantities (32 per cent for those aged 18–19 and 27 per cent for those aged 20–29);
  • Among young adults, alcohol is responsible for the majority of drug-related deaths and hospital episodes, causing more deaths and hospitalisations in this age group than all illicit drugs, and many more than tobacco.  In 2009–10, there were more than 20,000 hospitalisations with an alcohol-related principal diagnosis for people aged 10–39, more than any other drug;
  • Younger recent drinkers are far more likely than older people to report losing their memory after drinking.  In particular, younger risky drinkers were the most likely to report a loss of memory at least once in the previous month (37.7 per cent for those aged 12–17 years and 36.5 per cent for those aged 18–19 years);
  • In 2010, 22.4 per cent of recent drinkers aged 14 years or older put themselves or others at risk of harm while under the influence of alcohol in the previous 12 months; and
  • Intoxication contributes to accidental drowning, which is among the top ten causes of death among young people - swimming while under the influence of alcohol significantly increased in 2010 (from 6.1 per cent in 2007 up to 7.4 per cent).

Energy drinks and alcohol

  • The combination of alcohol and energy drinks can increase the risk of dehydration (leading to diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, headache, increased heart rate, muscle cramps and more severe hangover);
  • The combination of stimulant (caffeine) and depressant (alcohol) sends mixed messages to the nervous system, which can result in cardiovascular problems as well as sleep disturbances;
  • The combination of alcohol and energy drinks reduces the feelings/perception of alcohol intoxication, leading to increased alcohol consumption and significantly impaired judgement and decision making;
  • Australian research conducted with young people found that, when people consumed alcohol and energy drinks, they were more likely to have symptoms of over-stimulation including heart palpitations, sleep difficulties, agitation, tremors, irritability and tension;
  • Other research has shown that the combination of alcohol and energy drinks is associated with a range of risky behaviours including drink driving, binge drinking, alcohol related violence and unsafe sex.

Sexual activity

  • If young people are heavily influenced by alcohol or other substances, they may not be in a position to provide valid consent to sexual activity;
  • It is important that young people stay in control of the situation and feel capable of avoiding unwanted sexual activity.  We know that 38 per cent of female secondary students report having unwanted sex;
  • Safe sex - while many students (69 per cent) already report using condoms, the reality can be different especially when young people are under the influence of alcohol (and other substances) or having sex with a new partner;
  • In 2008, there were 40,575 notifications for STIs among young people (rate of 1,045 per 100,000), which is four times the rate recorded in 1998;
  • Chlamydia was the most commonly notified STI among young people (36,683 notifications; a rate of 945 per 100,000) accounting for 90 per cent of notifications for STIs.

Other substances

  • There has been much coverage in the media of synthetic drugs (also known as ‘legal highs’), including so-called synthetic cannabinoids and ‘bath salts’ (which are said to be similar to amphetamines and cocaine);
  • Very little is known about how our bodies metabolise these substances, making consumption very risky with users reporting heart palpitations, nausea, hallucinations, paranoia, violent behaviour and severe cases of heart attack and kidney and liver failure.

Injury

  • There has been recent media coverage of people falling from balconies and rooftops.  Alcohol contributes to poor judgement;
  • Falls are the second most common injury hospitalisation among young people (12-24 year olds).

Sun safety

  • Sunscreen should be applied regularly (and reapplied after water exposure);
  • Schoolies should wear hats, sunglasses and appropriate clothing when outside.  People should seek out shade during the middle of the day when the UV index is highest;
  • Sun exposure during childhood and adolescence is considered to be the most significant risk factor for developing melanoma and other skin cancers during adulthood;
  • Melanoma is the most common cancer diagnosed in young Australians aged 15-24 years;
  • The Cancer Council suggests that regular use of sunscreen in the first 18 years of life can reduce non-melanoma skin cancer by 60 per cent.

Social media

  • While many young people will want to take photos of themselves and their friends during Schoolies Week, its important to note that embarrassing/damaging (and photo shopped) images can be easily circulated via social media and smart phones with long lasting implications. 

For those heading overseas to celebrate Schoolies Week

  • It’s a good idea to visit your GP beforehand in order to make sure all immunisations are up to date;
  • It is also worth noting that quality of medical care may vary from Australia, and that law enforcement in other countries may have different attitudes towards people under the influence of alcohol and illicit substances.

9 November 2012

CONTACT:         John Flannery                       02 6270 5477 / 0419 494 761
                        Kirsty Waterford                  02 6270 5464 / 0427 209 753

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Published: 09 Nov 2012