Binge drinking - consumption of large quantities of alcohol in a short time - is becoming a disturbing trend among youngsters that could lead to crime and fatal alcohol poisoning, doctors warn. 'We are worrying that it is becoming a trend among youngster,' said Dr Lam Ming, senior medical officer at the Tuen Mun alcohol problems clinic at Castle Peak Hospital. Dr Lam's clinic yesterday launched a joint initiative with the Tung Wah Group of hospitals and Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital to treat alcoholics. 'Parents have the misconception that it is okay to drink some beer because they are big boys now, but parents get very nervous when their big boys lay their hands on cannabis,' Dr Lam said A previously published Department of Health study, conducted between September 2003 and May 2004, found 14.4 per cent of 7,000 youngsters aged 15 or above qualified as binge drinkers, he said. Frequenting bars and pubs had become an acceptable popular pastime for young people, he said. Binge drinkers often suffer from acute alcohol poisoning, which can cause slow response and loss of concentration, as well as acute ulcers, unconsciousness and even coma, and some alcohol abusers are prone to pathological jealousy and delusions that undermine their personal relationships. A warning on the link between alcoholism and child and spousal abuse was issued at yesterday's news conference by Edward Chan Ko-ling, lecturer in the University of Hong Kong's department of social work. He said he had conducted a four-year study of 467 battered women and found a third of abusive spouses, 34 per cent, were drinkers. 'Alcoholism doesn't equate with family violence in absolute terms, but it is definitely related, particularly for those who have impulsive characters or those who believe their spouses should be submissive,' Dr Chan said. Dr Lam's clinic opened in 1996 and has treated more than 400 alcoholic patients. He said more women had come forward for treatment. When he first started, he had only three women patients. Now the clinic has treated 55 women. For the new joint service, patients aged 18 or above or their families can call a hotline, 2884 9876, which offers medical and psychological treatment.