A 2003 survey by the University Research Institute for Mental Health shows that Greek teenagers are drinking a lot and getting intoxicated regularly. Two years ago, the institute surveyed 8,447 students between the ages of 14 and 17. Well over a quarter of adolescents – 28.2 percent – regularly used alcohol. That’s a 3.4 percent increase since 1998, when a similar survey of this age group was conducted. Also, slightly more teenagers said they get drunk. In 1998, 10.9 percent of them said they had been intoxicated at least three times during that year, whereas 12.4 percent of teens said they had in 2003. Teens and alcohol In 2003, 13.2 percent of teen survey respondents said they drank excessively, consuming at least five drinks at a time on three separate occasions in one month. In 1998, 11.7 percent said they drank to such excess. Teens drink to such an extent even though most of them know the dangers of alcohol. In 1998 more than half, or 51.5 percent, thought consuming up to two alcoholic drinks daily was not dangerous, compared to 32.2 percent in 2003. In 1998, 17.6 percent of teens thought it was safe to consume four to five alcoholic drinks daily, compared to 8.3 percent in 2003. Nevertheless, 83.6 percent of Greek adolescents thought excessive use of alcohol caused car accidents, while 58.1 percent thought it contributed to health problems, 48.8 percent to violent crime, and 44.8 percent to family problems. Yet nearly all teenagers had tried some kind of alcoholic beverage, and 38.5 percent of teenagers admitted they had imbibed alcohol at least 40 times in their lives. Three in 10 teenagers said they had consumed some kind of alcoholic drink 20 or more times in the past year. Teenagers preferred hard liquor such as whiskey, vodka and tequila, according to the survey. Then they chose low-alcohol beverages such as Bacardi Breezers, followed by wine and beer. Most of the teens surveyed first tried beer or wine when they were about 13 years old and hard liquor at 14. On average, teens first got drunk at age 15. Waiting for detox The recent EKTEPN study also chronicles adult consumption of alcohol. Nearly a third of Greek adults – 29.8 percent – drank alcohol at least three times a week in 2004. A little over 12 percent said they had got drunk in the last year. Alarmingly, 16.4 percent say they had driven a car or a motorcycle after consuming four or more alcoholic drinks. The report also provides data from five alcohol and drug rehabilitation or detox programs, three of which have waiting lists. In 2004, 608 addicts went through the first stages of these programs, and 135 of them are still in therapy. Most of those seeking help are men over 36 with a steady job. Between 22.1 and 43.9 percent of those men have also graduated from an institute of higher education.