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The prevalence of a wide range of risk-taking behaviour among high-school students in the Cape Peninsula, South Africa, was investigated. In this article, the results for alcohol use are presented. Cluster sampling techniques produced a sample of 7 340 students from 16 schools in the three major education departments. A self-administered questionnaire was completed in a normal school period. Estimates for each education department were weighted to produce an overall estimate. Of the sample, 53,2% reported ever using alcohol; 26,2% had used it recently and 15,4% reported episodes of binge drinking in the previous 14 days. Drinking patterns varied according to school standard, home language, and gender. Males reported higher rates of alcohol use and for both genders rates increased with age. Overall, the prevalence of drinking was highest among adolescents whose home language was English. The proportion of Xhosa-speaking females who drank was very low.
The prevalence of binge drinking in particular was identified as being of concern. The findings indicate a need for preventive action and further local research in this area.