Youth drinking increases again

Incidents of binge drinking among Cayman Islands youth have doubled within the past decade, according to a study released last month by the National Drug Council.

A survey of nearly 2,500 students in grades 7-12 last year found that 15 per cent of those students admitted to having five or more drinks in one sitting at least once in the past month.

In 1998, a survey of about 1,950 students found a little over seven per cent admitted to having five or more drinks at least once within the past month.

Increased binge drinking among two specific groups was cause for particular concern, according to the council.

Binge drinking by seventh graders went from 1.5 per cent of those surveyed in 1998 to about 10 per cent of those who filled out the survey in 2006.

12th graders who were surveyed also reported a significant increase in their binge drinking according to the survey; going from 19.5 per cent in 1998 to 30 per cent last year.

‘This pattern of drinking warrants special attention for a number of reasons,’ said the drug council’s acting CEO Simon Miller. ‘Alcohol use amongst our youth is an issue that needs to be tackled by the entire community.’

Overall, occasional drinking among students in grades 7-12 also increased in 2006, when compared to prior years.

Some 46 per cent of students who responded to the survey said they had at least one alcoholic beverage within the past year. In 2002, just four years before, that number was 38 per cent.

The 2006 survey showed virtually no difference between young men and women in terms of drinking habits, although statistics showed that males were slightly more likely to go on drinking binges.

Nearly half those surveyed last year said it was either easy or very easy for them to get alcohol, despite the fact they were underage.

Those who answered the questionnaire in 2006 said they were able to get alcohol in a variety of ways. 14 per cent said they buy it themselves, 15 per cent said friends buy it, 16 percent said friends offer it, 18 percent said parents offer it, five per cent buy it in restaurants and bars, and three per cent said they stole it.

Another 30 per cent said they obtained alcohol in other ways.

The survey sample of 2,480 students in the 2006 study represents about 84 per cent of all those enrolled in grades 7-12 in the Cayman Islands.

More in-depth information about the National Drug Council survey can be obtained at or by calling 949-9000.