Norfolk

Former alcoholic 'scared' by rise in young drinkers

Patrick Martin
Image caption Recovering alcoholic Patrick Martin is 'scared' by the rise in the number of young drinkers

A recovering alcoholic from Norfolk says he is "scared" by the rise in the number of young people with drink problems at his support group.

Patrick Martin, 64, once drank a litre of vodka a day at the height of his alcohol addiction.

Mr Martin, who has been sober for three years, has lost two partners to alcohol-related illnesses.

Now he is worried by the rise in the number of young people at his Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

"We are getting more young people at meetings, particularly young women," he said.

"They are getting really ill through drinking and it scares me for future generations.

"My heart goes out to them. I wish I could tell them what I've been through."

'Wallowed in sadness'

Mr Martin, who lives in Norwich, said he has seen a sharp rise in young people aged between 22 to 28 coming to the group.

Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show the rate of alcohol-related deaths for 15 to 34-year-olds in the UK has almost doubled in nearly 20 years.

In 1991, 137 young people aged between 15 and 34 died of alcohol-related problems. Of those, 48 were women.

By 2009, the total number of alcohol-related deaths had risen to 261, of which 94 were women.

"The stories we hear from these young people are harrowing to say the least," Mr Martin said.

"They let their hair down at weekends but these weekends tend to get out of hand for a lot of them."

Mr Martin said his drink problem started to escalate in his late 20s, when he drank as a way to escape the pressure he felt in his work as a pottery designer.

At the height of his addiction, Mr Martin said would sometimes go without eating for two weeks when on a drinking binge.

"I just locked the door, drew the curtains, pulled the telephone wire out and just wallowed in my own sadness," he said.

"When you are drinking, your only thoughts from the moment you wake up until the moment you pass out is where you can get your next drink from. Nothing else matters."

'Rock bottom'

Mr Martin said his alcohol problem has shortened his life and robbed him of his marriage and his relationship with his son.

Two former partners have also died of alcohol-related illnesses in the past six years, he added.

Despite attending Alcoholics Anonymous for almost 30 years, Mr Martin said he decided to stop drinking quite suddenly three-and-a-half years ago.

"I just put the drink down one day," he said. "I had reached my rock bottom and climbed back up but a lot of people don't."

Mr Martin, who has now retired for health reasons, is calling for better education to help stem the rising tide of young drinkers.

"You are not going to stop people drinking by putting alcohol prices up," he said.

"If you are desperate for alcohol, you will steal to get it.

"I don't think the health services or Government take the problem seriously enough or realise how serious it will be in a few years.

"If they carry on drinking, a lot of these young people will be in the same boat as me in 10 years time."

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