Cheshire Police are calling on parents to educate their children about the harmful effects of alcohol misuse and to look out for the telltale signs of underage drinking.
Research shows that the earlier a child starts drinking, the higher their chances are of developing alcohol abuse or dependency in later life.
Young people are also more vulnerable to health problems as a result of drinking alcohol and there is a greater chance of them becoming involved in anti-social behaviour or crime.
Cheshire Police are using ‘Totally Wasted’ − an alcohol awareness campaign − in the lead upto Christmas to educate young people about the potential dangers of alcohol.
‘Totally Wasted’ is being supported by Joey Rayner, a 25 year old actress, who grew up in Northwich and started binge drinking as a teenager.
She was keen to share her story to warn others about the pitfalls of drinking alcohol from a young age and encourage young people to develop a sensible and healthy relationship with drink.
Joey said: "I started drinking alcopops and putting spirits into bottles of pop from the age of 13. My friends and I would go to local discos or drink at our houses. I made friends with some older boys in my area and a group of us would spend our weekends hanging out in their garages on a local estate. Usually the boys would drink beer or cider and the girls Lambrini.
"I think the first time I was properly drunk was not until I was 14. By that age, I was able to go out clubbing and not get IDed - so I was drinking heavily and regularly every weekend."
Unlike many others, peer pressure was not a factor in Joey starting to drink from a young age but she admits she may have exerted it on others. "My childhood was really solid and I went to a good school with strict discipline. Peer pressure was not a factor for me at all - if anything - I think I was probably the one pressuring others! I had always had a rebellious nature. I liked to be a leader and was one of the first, if not the first girl in my year to date older boys and drink alcohol and I liked the feeling of being ahead of the others.
"By 18, drinking came naturally and felt like the ‘thing that everyone did’. I always had a good tolerance of alcohol. I could drink a lot and rarely threw up. I suppose my social life revolved around drinking and the ′funny′ stories we′d remind each other of the following day. I was not aware of it at the time, but I definitely used alcohol as a social crutch - I wouldn′t go out and socialise without it."
On an average night, Joey would drink a bottle of wine before going out, followed by four or five cocktails and numerous shots, or a second bottle of wine, often losing track of how much alcohol she had actually consumed. Joey was lucky in that she never needed hospital treatment as a result of her excessive drinking, but alcohol did have a harmful impact on other aspects of her life.
She said: "The lowest points revolved around the chaos caused - the ridiculous fights with friends and boyfriends, losing phones and keys and waking up not knowing how I got home. There were times when I woke up with a friend and we weren′t even in a place we knew - we′d passed out at a random house party. Those times were potentially dangerous and very confusing to wake up to."
Joey has since adopted an alcohol-free lifestyle and is urging other young people not to go down the same path that she did.
Her message to young people is: "Firstly, to drink moderately and to look after each other (particularly girls.) Eat properly beforehand and drink water alongside every beverage because it′s so easy to get dehydrated.
"It′s boring for young people to be lectured about the health risks, I know, but alcohol is a key contributor of some of the biggest killers in the UK (strokes, cancer, heart disease). I′d encourage young people to think about developing a sensible relationship with alcohol because long-term, they will reap the benefits. To put it bluntly, when do you ever hear of happy endings when it comes to alcohol abuse? When it gets out of hand, it rarely ends well."
Joey now runs a website, with the help of a friend, called Addictive Daughter, which provides advice and support for young women. Visit www.addictivedaughter.com.
To find out more about the Totally Wasted alcohol awareness campaign, visit Cheshire Police’s website for young people, www.upbeat.uk.com.
Further advice and information for parents is available on the Cheshire Police website: www.cheshire.police.uk.