Wild Boozing Teens on Rampage in U.K.

Health officials describe Britain's booze culture as "a time bomb."

LONDON May 22, 2008— -- A British government report on the consumption of alcohol is the latest study to raise alarm over what experts depict as a nation with a serious drinking problem that is getting worse because of the availability of cheap beer and the acceptance of teenage boozing.

According to a National Health Service (NHS) report released today, hospital admissions linked to alcohol have increased by 50 percent since 1995.

Prescriptions for treating addiction to alcohol have jumped by 20 percent in the past four years, according to the NHS.

The NHS report comes on the heels of a study by the U.K.'s Home Office that worried over statistics that indicated that the next generation of Brits will be even heavier drinkers.

The study said kids were starting to drink at a younger age and were drinking more than the previous generation. The Home Office study found that by the age of 13, most youngsters have already drunk alcohol. Some of them even drink at school or in other public places.

A government crackdown in 24 towns during the fall of 2007 grabbed the equivalent of 6,500 pints of alcohol from minors within only four weeks.

"It is time to send the message that it is no longer acceptable for children to drink in public places," U.K. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith told reporters. "Their alcohol will be confiscated."

Brian Hayes who works as a paramedic at the London Ambulance Service said that he and his colleagues are often called to pick up drunk teenagers.

"We have got a particular problem with youngsters who have never been out before," Hayes told ABC News. "They drink too much and are left behind."

This problem affects even the highest ranks of the British society. In 2000, Prime Minister Tony Blair's son, who was 16 at the time, was found alone drunk in London's West End, apparently abandoned by his friends.

According to Hayes, whose team picks up around 125 drunk people in London every night, the habit of binge drinking is deeply rooted into the British way of life.

"It seems to be a culture in this country that it's fashionable to get drunk," Hayes said. "There's quite a bit a bravado about it."

Frank Soodeen, Head of Public Affairs with Alcohol Concern, a charity that lobbies for better information about alcohol and a more efficient government policy, told ABC News that what worries him the most is the amount of alcohol consumed by teenagers.

"The amount of alcohol that teenagers drink has doubled since the early 90's," he said. "It's a minority, but they are drinking more than before."

Alcohol is now more affordable and available to teenagers than ever before, according to the Home Office and Alcohol Concern.

"They can simply use their pocket money to buy alcohol, because it's so cheap," said Soodeen.

At some British supermarkets, the cheapest beers sell for as little as 50 cents a pint.

In an interview he gave to the BBC, Police Chief Ken Jones lashed out at supermarkets for encouraging excessive drinking.

"Why is it we have got ourselves into a position where lager is being sold cheaper than water?" Jones asked.

The British supermarket chain Tesco said the stores should not be blamed.

"It is a very competitive market, so you have to offer very competitive prices. People expect to get great value," Tesco said. "We need it to give it to them."

The kids often don't even have to go to the store for their booze.

"Nearly half of the alcohol obtained by young people appears to come from the family home," said Smith. "The parents have to hear the message."

"The idea that you can hand your kids a six-pack of lager and tell them to disappear off for the evening" she said, "frankly baffles me."

Soodeen said parents are partly to blame.

"There is a certain acceptance among some parents that it is OK to drink," said Soodeen, "because they look back at their teenage years and don't realize that today's teenagers drink more than they did."

The Home Secretary said the government is considering tough measures against parents who allow their children to drink. It said parents could be fined up to $2,000 or compelled to do community work if they let their children consume alcohol.

It also unveiled plans to issue parenting contracts which would ban parents from letting their children visit certain places and hold them responsible for preventing their children from drinking alcohol.

Alcohol Concern has been pushing for a ban on television commercials for alcohol before a certain hour and in theaters when they show movies rated for children.

Britain's heavy drinking habits have had disastrous consequences on the country's health system and society.

Each year, 22,000 in the U.K. die from alcohol-related causes, according to Alcohol Concern.

It is also blamed for fueling violence, a growing problem among hard drinking girls, referred to as "laddettes." Offences committed by girls increased by 25 percent over the last three years, according to the UK's Youth Justice Board.

According to Alcohol Concern, the consumption of alcohol by children can have severe consequences on their brain functions and also increase their risk of addiction to alcohol in later life.

The entire society pays a heavy toll for this habit.

On weekends, but also during the week, emergency rooms and hospitals are filled with the drunk, crawling and moaning.

A paramedic described to ABC News appalling scenes of hospital rooms filled up with drunk people, occupying beds needed for other people.

The cost of treating incidents and long term diseases caused by alcohol consumption has become an increasing concern among health professionals.

"It is quite a time bomb that is that is waiting to explode," said Hayes.