Binge drinking is becoming more of a daily occurrence among German youth, a new report by the federal government's commission for drug-related issues has warned.
Dangerous drinking is becoming a disturbing trend
More than 23,000 children and teenagers in Germany between the ages of 12 and 17 were treated in hospital for alcohol poisoning in 2008, said the government's drug commissioner, Sabine Baetzing, as she presented the results of her latest report on substance abuse. It was the highest figure recorded since 2000, when a noticeable increase in alcoholism among young people first brought the issue to the nation's attention.
Baetzing, a member of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), said that the excessive consumption of alcohol by minors is a trend that is continuing. In 2008, more than 20 percent of minors reported being drunk at least once a month. Almost every tenth young person admits to drinking a dangerous volume of alcohol.
However, she stressed that the overall consumption of alcohol, tobacco and cannabis by minors had decreased. For example, in 2001, 28 percent of minors smoked cigarettes, while last year, that figure had dropped to 15.4 percent, Baetzing said.
Existing laws need to be better enforced, the government's commissioner said
She said that while her commission had reached some important goals, Germany's statistics on drug and alcohol abuse by young people are still "incredibly high" when compared with other countries.
According to Baetzing, sufficient legislation is in place. "What we're lacking is enforcement," she said.
Drug-related deaths to rise, report says
The commissioner said she was concerned about the increase in the number of drug-related deaths in Germany. Figures released earlier in March revealed that 1449 people died from an overdose of drugs in 2008 - 4 percent more than was the case in 2007.
Baetzing also mentioned another form of addiction which she said was of particular concern: Internet addiction. Up to 7 percent of Internet users in Germany are considered to be addicted to the medium, spending anywhere from 10 to 18 hours a day on chat forums or playing computer games.
When it comes to strategies to combat these various forms of addiction, however, it seems the ruling coalition still cannot agree on a way forward. Asked about a stalled national action program against excessive alcohol and tobacco consumption, Baetzing accused Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) of blocking progress so as not to hurt their chances in the upcoming general election.
Family Minister Ursula von der Leyen rejected the accusation, saying that her party had only objected to the action plan in its current form. "Significant parts of the action program presented today offer mere recommendations," a spokesperson from von der Leyen's ministry said. "Qualitatively, it's not enough for the federal government to form a national initiative."