Should binge drinkers pay for hospital beds

Berlin : Trend among young people: drinking until the film breaks

Addiction experts warn of a worrying trend: young people consume extreme quantities, animated by sweet mixed drinks in which the alcohol can hardly be tasted. The beverage industry has recognized the development and is always bringing new ready-made cocktails onto the market.

Beverage manufacturers such as Berentzen or Bacardi confirm the growing sales of so-called alcohol pops, mixed drinks made from lemonade and alcohol. These pops, also known as RTDs (“Ready to Drink”), were also among the hits at the Love Parade. They have names like Vibe or Breezer. "Their sweet taste prevents people from tasting the alcohol," says Matthias Apel, an employee of the Berlin State Drug Commissioner. “We are very skeptical about it.” Especially when it gets warm outside and you quench your thirst with alcoholic beverages, at some point the circulation no longer plays along.

The Federal Center for Health Education (BZgA) even considers it possible that there could be a connection between the rapid success of the Alcohol Pops and the equally rapidly growing alcohol problem among young women: Between 1995 and 2000, the proportion of extreme drinkers among the 18- up to 24-year-old women nationwide almost doubled to 11 percent.

Basically, however, young men from the eastern part of the city are the most vulnerable group when it comes to alcohol abuse, says Apel. They often meet at the weekend and drink "until the film breaks". The special thing about "Binge Drinking" (in German: Kampftrinken) is that you drink at a fast pace so that the effect of the alcohol sets in as quickly and as strongly as possible. Since binge drinking mostly takes place at private parties, it is difficult to quantify, says Apel. It is known that nationwide 24 percent of young men belong to the group of heavy drinkers and consume an average of at least 30 grams of pure alcohol per day.

BZgA spokeswoman Marita Völker-Albert says with a view to the Love Parade that, according to a study, 40 percent of ravers take ecstasy, more than half of them in connection with alcohol. However, these are extreme cases, as only four percent of all young people resorted to ecstasy.

At the Love Parade, there was significantly more alcohol excess as the consumption of illegal drugs decreased. In addition to beer and alcohol pops, some dealers had mixed cocktails: Red Bull with “4cl absinthe”, for example.

It was only in June that Berlin's health senator Heidi Knake-Werner Alarm pointed out that 20,000 alcoholics had been treated in the hospital last year. Around 500 hospital beds are occupied by alcoholics every day.

At the same time, however, the addiction experts emphasize that the majority of young people drink responsibly, which is shown by the overall stagnating alcohol consumption. This is precisely why the Alcohol Pops are so risky: "All these sweet drinks are a great temptation and a great danger at the same time," says Elisabeth Schütz from the Berlin Diakonisches Werk.

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