The British Disease

GUILLERMO NAVARRO / COVER FOR TIME

STAGGERING STATISTICS: Young people drink out-side, botellón style, in Madrid; their generation began drinking almost four years earlier than that of their parents

"We've got a 39 by Canal Metro Station. Male aged about 18, vomiting on the steps. Go immediately," crackled the voice over the radio of Madrid's emergency services on a recent Saturday night. Ten minutes later another "39" call, or alcohol-intoxication case, came in from another part of the city — and it was not yet 9 p.m. As the evening progressed, there were half a dozen drink-related traffic accidents and a booze-fueled stabbing. And through a bitterly cold night, hardy groups of teenagers could still be seen enjoying botellones: a popular pastime which has them huddling in darkened squares around...

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