Seven of every 10 people treated for alcohol consumption last year had been binging and did not wind up in hospital because of a drinking problem.

This trend emerges from figures tabled in Parliament by Health Minister Chris Fearne.

The figures show that nearly three-quarters of the 388 individuals who were treated at Mater Dei Hospital last year after having too much to drink were not classified as alcohol dependants.

They did not require treatment after years of heavy alcohol use but had been binge drinking to the point that they required medical assistance within the space of just a few hours.

About three of every four persons in need of medical attention were men, and more than 40 per cent were youths.

Perhaps even more worrying are the figures indicating that nine of the patients were under 15.

About three out of every four of those needing attention were men, and more than 40 per cent were youths

According to the minister, who was answering a written parliamentary question from Labour MP Anthony Agius Decelis, only one-fifth of those who were treated for alcohol abuse last year were alcoholics.

One of every 10 were being treated for liver problems as a result of prolonged alcohol abuse.

The problem of binge drinking was put in the national spotlight last year after an EU-wide report revealed that more than four out of every five students in Malta aged 15 and 16 found it “very easy” to get their hands on alcohol.

The study, published by the European Union’s drug and alcohol abuse agency, also found that more than half of all students below the age of 13 had already tried alcohol.

The problem was not limited to youths, however, and the figures given by Mr Fearne show that many of the bingers were 45 or older. About 18 were past retirement age, and nine were older than 55, including one who was over 85 years old.

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