Booze binges �part of leavers

Perth researchers are alarmed by high school students' no-holds-barred attitude to leavers, with many planning to drink to oblivion and boys regarding girls as easy targets for sex.

Curtin University school of psychology researcher Simone Pettigrew said a study of about 400 Year 11 and 12 students' plans for leavers was still being analysed but many comments were very disturbing.

Professor Pettigrew said once assured of anonymity students had "let rip" about what they were planning to do and spend on alcohol.

"The boys' derogatory comments about girls were unbelievable, it broke my heart, so alcohol is one of the problems but there are clearly other issues as well," she said.

"We haven't analysed the results properly yet, but just looking at the comments, it's really full on and they're just planning to let loose.

"It's a time when rules don't apply - it's no holds barred."

It comes as the results of Professor Pettigrew's earlier study of 18 to 21-year-olds, based on their actual experience at leavers, reveals in their own words the impact of drinking, often resulting in teenagers passing out, being injured or having sex with virtual strangers.

Their "warts-and-all" experiences, published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health today, show elaborate plans to stow alcohol in holiday houses three weeks before leavers and parents helping teenagers to sneak in alcohol in cereal boxes and pillowcases.

The study found many students saw leavers as a rite of passage and alcohol was so embedded in the activities it was a constant challenge for parents and authorities.

Some reported drinking vodka for "breakfast, lunch and dinner" during leavers and one said a father bought them hundreds of dollars worth of alcohol, which they drank on the first night.

Researchers warned there was likely to be an escalation in heavy drinking from this year, when half of graduating students will be 18 because of changes to the school starting age. Another study in the journal led by Tina Lam from Curtin's National Drug Research Institute found that about half of 16 and 17-year-olds reported finding it easy to buy alcohol from bottle shops, while a quarter found it easy to get into a licensed venue when they were drunk.

McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth director Mike Daube, a researcher on the post-leavers study, said the findings showed parents' fears were well-founded.

"The Government must now act to give police 'controlled purchase' powers to enforce the legislation properly," he said.