"A teenage body is not equipped to cope with large quantities of alcohol. The young girl I spoke with said the worst she ever suffered was a hangover, but that is just a sign that something else in going on in your body. You will not be aware that your liver, kidneys may have suffered lasting damage."
While HURT was set up initially to help people with drug problems, the group helps a significant amount of people who abuse both alcohol and drugs, or simply alcohol.
"We're very aware of the issues surrounding alcohol abuse in Derry. What we are really looking into at the moment is a new concept -- that of hidden harm.
"A recent report has suggested that as many as one in 11 children in the U.K. are brought up in a household where there is hidden harm -- that is their primary carer is using a significant amount of substances, be it alcohol or drugs.
"We have to ask ourselves what foundations are being laid for the future when so many young people see this kind of behavior as normal.
"Ten or 15 years ago, the average age of someone attending a centre for addiction support was mid 30s. Now you could easily take ten years off that.”
Hoteliers need help
Sligo hoteliers have called on the government to take emergency action to salvage Ireland's tourism sector, said to be in crisis amid a dramatic drop in visitors year on year.
"The bottom has fallen out of the British tourist market, which is having a significant impact on the tourism sector in Sligo," said Fergus O'Donovan, chairman of the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF), Sligo.
According to the latest Central Statistics Office figures the fall in visitors from the U.K. has been particularly stark, with numbers down 24% in August compared with last year.
"Not a single meaningful action of substance has been taken by the government to recover the situation, " O'Donovan claimed. "The government can no longer stand idly by and do nothing. We need imaginative solutions from our leaders.”
O'Donovan stated that it was no longer acceptable for the government to dismiss suggestions that could actually give Ireland a competitive advantage in attracting visitors from our main markets.
"Irish tourism is in crisis and in urgent need of leadership from government. What is the use in holding diaspora think-tanks in Farmleigh and inviting the best minds in Ireland to come up solutions if we are unwilling to respond creatively and with a sense of urgency to positive suggestions to deal with crises situations, particularly when they involve no additional cost to the exchequer?" he asked.
The IHF believes that Ireland is uniquely positioned to attract an increasing number of European citizens over 66 years of age -- a largely untapped market of 80 million people across the EU.
The IHF is calling on the government to extend, as a matter of urgency, the current free travel scheme for Irish citizens aged 66 to all EU citizens in this age group. Such a decisive action would provide a major boost to attempts to halt the collapse of the British tourist market for Ireland, and would encourage many within this sector of nine million people to avail of the low cost access fares to Ireland and the fantastic value packages available in Irish hotels and guesthouses.
"Retired people have the time, discretionary income and inclination to travel and we should position ourselves to benefit from this growing market. By providing free internal travel within Ireland, it would give us an added attraction and advantage in this segment of the tourism market," says O'Donovan.
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