SOUTH Cumbria residents recovering from alcohol addiction have spoken of the harmful effects teenage drinking had on their dependencies in later life.

Their comments come as analysis of new healthcare figures suggests Barrow is a national hotspot for underage drinking.

The Public Health England (PHE) data places Barrow at the top of a list for locations in England with the highest levels of alcohol-related emergency hospital admissions among children and teenagers.

Ged Pickersgill, project development manager at Barrow-based third-sector anti-addiction group, The Well, said his organisation was ‘there to help’ residents suffering from alcohol addiction - claiming the addiction had no respect of background or status.

One 26-year-old from Barrow, who is currently being treated at the Well, believes the drinking culture in the town set her on a path towards drink dependency and that she has been an alcoholic since her school days.

She told The Mail: “When I was younger, you were just seen as a ‘party girl’ and people just laughed if you drank until you blacked out.

“It wasn’t until later that the negative consequences became clearer and I began to lose everything around me.

“Essentially, I’ve been alcohol-dependent since I was 15 or 16.

"I was kicked out of school and I lost my part-time job both at 18 because of drink.

“My physical dependence eventually got to the point where I was having seizures - my body was just beginning to give up.

“I’ve been a serial relapser.

"This is my sixth time in treatment.

"I’ve been here since April 24 this year.”

27-year-old Tom Sharp says he was 14 when he started drinking spirits at house parties.

“Not everyone that drinks young is going to turn into a full-blown alcoholic like I was,” he said.

“My parents knew I was drinking semi-regularly as a teenager - at weekends etc - but it was just viewed as the norm, I don’t think I even got a bollocking for it.

“If I’d told them I was taking any other drug at that age, they’d have taken it a lot more seriously.

“So I think the stigma and the availability of drink is a big part of the problem. It’s in most people’s houses, it’s socially accepted.

“But the [PHE] statistics did shock me - I think it’s probably happening but behind closed doors.”

Six other coastal towns were featured in the teenage boozing league table, including other northern seaside destinations such as South Tyneside and Scarborough.

In Barrow, according to the PHE statistics, 45 under-18s received hospital treatment for alcohol-related conditions or incidents last year, equivalent to 112 ­admissions per 100,000 minors.

Mr Pickersgill added: “We see people from all backgrounds in South Cumbria struggling with alcohol addiction.

“We work very closely with Barrow families and we see every day how much committed, hard work goes into things like safeguarding kids, underage drinking, test purchases in supermarkets.

“Let me make no bones about it, the partnership work going on here in Barrow at the moment - with integrated care communities, local authorities, police, and community groups like Drop Zone all playing an important role - is second to none.

“So we were surprised by these figures - which are concerning, but don’t necessarily tell the whole story.”

Barrow MP Simon Fell said: “Clearly any underage drinking is a problem.

“It happens everywhere, but it’s important to bring the issue out into the open and make sure that experimentation doesn’t lead to bigger and further-reaching problems.

“There’s government funding coming down the line for community bid in to, but I’m also hopeful that some of the excellent plans in the Town Deal will result in more for young people to do.”