Nearly 30 years ago, when I was a 16-year-old living in Hamilton, the word went round - one of the guys from our brother school was in Waikato Hospital, in a critical condition, after having his stomach pumped out.

He'd nearly died from alcohol poisoning after drinking spirits at a party.

Rumours varied as to the amount he'd drunk but it was certainly no less than a bottle of bourbon.

We were amazed anyone could actually die from drinking too much.

My friends and I weren't big drinkers - you couldn't when you were living at home and when the drinks tasted like rubbish.

Liquor companies hadn't worked out how to make spirits palatable to young ones in those days.

So we didn't really take drinking seriously. To think that someone could actually come close to death because of drinking seemed incredible.

It was a sobering incident - well, for all of a couple of weeks.

After that, the rugby club boys kicked back into it but, from then on, we had an awareness that booze was not a benign drug after all.

Fast-forward 30 years and not much has changed. Between 2000 and 2004, there were nine deaths from alcohol poisoning in the 15-to-24 age bracket.

Disturbingly, there were nine deaths in the under 5 year category within the same period, according to ALAC.

A further 74 kids aged between 5 and 14 were hospitalised for alcohol poisoning.

While I think there do need to be changes around our drinking culture, all the love and care in the world can't keep our kids from doing dumb things.

Most don't die. But some do and all we can do is feel for the parents and thank our lucky stars our kids dodged a bullet.