Sinn Féin west Belfast MLA Jennifer McCann warned of the dangers of alcohol misuse and has called for more services to be put in place for those people suffering as a result of alcohol abuse.
Ms McCann said,
"The direct and indirect costs of alcohol misuse are well documented and while there is a clear onus on the individual in society to ensure they use alcohol wisely there is a very clear responsibility to have controls in place and adequate preventative measures to warn people, particularly our young people, of the long term effects of binge or heavy drinking.
"There has been a marked change in the patterns of drinking among young people in particular over the past 10 years and statistics are showing that more and more young people are misusing alcohol. Children have started drinking as young as 11 years old and Ireland as a whole has one of the highest levels of binge drinking among the 15-16 year old age group in Europe.
"It can lead to a number of problems for the individual concerned, their families and the community in general. Young people are more vulnerable to suffering physical, emotional and social harm from drinking alcohol, and it can lead to them having mental health problems or becoming involved in anti-social activity. And in some cases can lead to more serious crime.
"People misuse alcohol for a whole variety of reasons some of which are related to trauma in their past or their life experiences and very often the alcohol becomes a symptom of a wider problem. It is essential that they are treated in a holistic manner with respect and dignity.
"When we look at the young man who died in the streets of Derry just a few short months ago it is very clear more needs to be done to provide shelter for people with addiction problems. It is difficult enough to cope with illnesses such as alcoholism without having to worry where your next meal is coming from or where you're going to get shelter from the cold.
"Projects like the one initiated by the ICAP (Inter-church Addiction Project) which is pushing forward to see the provision for a dedicated residential facility to help young people who have an addiction problem. These services must be assisted by the Department for Health and proactively target those many people who need immediate help." CRÍOCH