Drink Up!

ALCOHOL WATCH #3 by Russell Guy.

 

It’s official.  The NTG can justly issue car registration plates under the moniker ‘Drink Up!’, or perhaps more to the point, ‘What goes around, comes around’.

 

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ABC NT (13/12/13) has reported new figures showing alcohol sales in the NT have increased, with the equivalent of six million cartons of full-strength beer sold in the past year.

 

A Minister of the NTG attempted to quash any solace we may have drawn from the Banned Drinkers Register which was launched in that period, but dismantled by his government before it was given a chance to prove effective.

 

In Tennant Creek, the latest figures reveal a 44% increase in assaults in a town where a local Aboriginal Corporation was given $250k by the NTG to come up with an Alcohol Management Plan (AMP).  The NT Opposition criticized the NTG for failing to cooperate with the organization.

 

NT wholesale supply figures for 2012 (Jan – Dec) includes four months without the Banned Drinkers’ Register:  Sept. – December.

 

The estimated per capita consumption of alcohol in the Northern Territory had been decreasing each year between 2005 and 2011, but from 2011 to 2012, the total wholesale Pure Alcohol Content (PAC)  supply increased by 2%, while the drinking age population increased by 1%.  As a result, estimated consumption per capita increased by 1%, reversing the decreasing trend of the past six years.

 

The NT data and data by regional centres is available here:

http://www.dob.nt.gov.au/gambling-licensing/liquor/Pages/alcohol-data.aspx

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AMP’s remind me of the story about the boy who stuck his finger in the dike to try and stop the sea from flooding a country that had built them to avert a crisis.  The following story reminds us that we are already awash with toxic levels of grog.

 

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A Call to Action from the recent Australasian Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Conference has been released. Delegates to the conference were clear that now is the time for action and called on the Australian and New Zealand Governments, health professionals, service providers and the community to act immediately on the areas identified.

 

This includes: public education campaigns, vast improvements in the treatment available for women with alcohol-use disorders, training and support for health professionals to be able to routinely discuss alcohol consumption with women and their partners, continued research on FASD, and recognition and training for many sectors the FASD impacts on and which requires a whole of government response.

 

The conference delegates also strongly felt that support was severely lacking for people living with FASD, their parents and carers, particularly in terms of diagnostic services, mental health and other health services, disability support and early intervention programs.

 

These are in part due to FASD not being recognised as a disability. A petition to the Australian Senate has been started for the Federal Government to formally recognise FASD as a disability.

 

*****

 

TV Nine News (8/12/13) has reported that  nearly 30,000 Victorians were hospitalised in a 12-month period due to the effects of excessive alcohol consumption.  New data shows that men make up the majority of those hospitalised, but there has been a big jump in the number of women ending up in hospital due to alcohol.

 

In 2001/02 there were 6727 women hospitalised for alcohol-related incidents, but by 2010/11 that number had jumped to 11,484.  For women, those aged between 40 and 44 years and 50 and 54 years are the most likely to end up in hospital for alcohol related reasons.

 

Men aged between 50 and 60 years were the most likely group to be hospitalised.

 

The data, compiled by Turning Point, shows that during 2010/11 there were 29,694 alcohol-related inpatient hospitalisations.  On average, each of those people are staying in hospital for nearly four days, meaning 113,117 hospital bed days were taken up as a result of excess alcohol consumption.

 

Turning Point director Professor Dan Lubman said the figures were a timely warning of the dangers of alcohol as Victorians prepare for the Christmas holiday period: “While most people are able to consume alcohol in moderation, the decision-making part of your brain becomes less effective the more you drink,” Prof Lubman said. “There is a clear link between intoxication and increased rates of road accidents, injuries and assaults.”

 

*****

 

Alice Springs-based, People’s Alcohol Action Coalition (PAAC) reported in a media release (6/5/11) that NT death and hospitalization rates due to alcohol are the highest in Australia and that Territorians currently drink 70 million more standard drinks every year than the national per capita average.

 

The latest figures at six million full-strength beers fit with that figure and the reported increase. This is addiction on a large, expensive scale – a social epidemic that calls for supply intervention as a precursor to managing what is economically unsustainable in health and productivity indicators.

 

A government that pretends that it is justifiable on core cultural terms is leading us deeper into a social morass.

The reverse thrusters should be employed.  Thousands of liters of grog being poured out by police under the 2km law is a somewhat absurd act while the supply tap continues, self-regulated by the alcohol industry.

 

Picture: In the 1980s, images of multiple road trains importing grog into the NT don’t seem to have had any effect.  Forty years on, the latest figures reveal the equivalent of 115,000 slabs sold, Territory-wide each week. That’s about one slab a week per man, woman and child.

 

 

 

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7 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Terry
    Posted December 17, 2013 at 1:08 am

    @ Russel Guy
    Wow Russel, you sure do get wound up about my name don’t you … I wonder why?
    The article is convoluted, and I said so. Try turning your energy to fixing the problem instead of attacking me.
    @the editor, I thought the Alice News had a policy of not allowing personal attacks. What happened to it? Terry.
    [ED – Our policy it that people making personal attacks need to provide their full name for publication. Russell Guy does.]

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  2. Russell Guy
    Posted December 16, 2013 at 9:16 pm

    @ Nimby, Dec. 15th.
    You may not be aware that the Cancer Councils of Australia, Tasmania and Victoria are members of NAAA – The National Alliance for Action on Alcohol, a national coalition of health and community organisations from across Australia, formed with the goal of reducing alcohol-related harm.
    NAAA includes the Local Government Association of the NT (?) and Alice Springs-based People’s Alcohol Action Coalition (PAAC).
    One of their aims is to implement alcohol policy according to existing evidence-based strategies and suitable for the Outback.
    In this respect, a need for PhD research is superfluous. As mentioned in Alcohol Watch #3, the Australasian Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Conference is calling for action now. Perhaps, you might consider joining one of these organisations?

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  3. Paul Parker
    Posted December 16, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    Over consumption of alcohol is a serious issue all around Australia and in many other countries.
    Does society demand public intoxication to be a criminal offense in itself? IMHO not yet.
    Does society demand intoxicated persons to be held accountable for offenses they may commit whilst intoxicated? IMHO yes.
    Magistrates consider whether charged respondents’ behavior was unusual or common with reference to their police record and other evidence.
    Society needs ensure Magistrates when finding an offense committed have a wide ranges of sentencing options, to ensure most appropriate orders possible.
    Magistrates in addition to imprisonment need options like orders for income management – partial or complete, orders to participate in a wide range of anti-alcohol/drug-addiction programs, as well as good behavior bonds and whether sentences should be recorded.
    What types of sentences does community seek Magistrates order that either NOT yet available, or not used enough?

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  4. Russell Guy
    Posted December 16, 2013 at 8:31 am

    @ Terry, the bloke who doesn’t want to give his full name “because he doesn’t have to”, but obviously considers that ethical.
    However, for a bloke who chides others on their negativity, allow me to suggest that your bewilderment appears to emanate from your inability to notice the basic fact that alcohol supply in Alice Springs already has a voluntary floor price, something which has been hard won, but not by naysayers.
    I cannot help you to interpret what you refer to as a “confusing list of facts and figures” when you haven’t been paying attention to similar stats in the AS News for the past two years.
    Any continuing local resident of the past four decades could interpret the burgeoning situation as one requiring a community response.
    The “true light” that you cannot see is obvious and yes, there are a few of us, who believe that something has to be done: if not “fix” the problem, then at least begin to modify the self-regulating alcohol industry’s plans to put us into a deepening budgetary hole, from which funds needed for FASD children will be required.
    You state the obvious easily enough, but fail, or pretend not to see it.

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  5. Terry
    Posted December 16, 2013 at 2:13 am

    I found this article bewildering and badly written. A confusing list of facts and figures that tell me nothing concrete. Perhaps these same facts and figures could be re-written into a readable article, then we just might see the problem in its true light.
    We all know that alcohol causes social problems, and not just in Australia but in all of the western world, but honestly, does anyone think it can be fixed? No way, it is human nature to want the forbidden, as an example look at the legalising of pot in some American states, and the associated rise in the crime rate. Governments will always give in to popular demand, it is how they stay in power.

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  6. Nimby
    Posted December 15, 2013 at 11:12 am

    Hi Editor, please add the word cancer (below) to: “the alcohol dependent with physical complications (cirrhosis, pancreatitis, cancer, seizure/withdrawal, dementia).
    Many thanks.

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  7. Nimby
    Posted December 15, 2013 at 11:10 am

    The Turning Point data quoted actually come from The Victorian Drugs Statistics Handbook, on page 27.
    http://www.turningpoint.org.au/site/DefaultSite/filesystem/documents/Victorian%20Drug%20Statistics%20Handbook%202010-2011.pdf
    The nature of the presentations is not defined, therefore it is somewhat difficult to identify the meaning of the statistic.
    There are three major groups of presentations to hospital:
    1. The intoxicated with injury or behavioural / psychological disturbance.
    2. The alcohol dependent with physical complications (cirrhosis, pancreatitis, seizure / withdrawal, dementia); and
    3. The alcoholic with psychosocial complications (psychiatric disorder / homelessness / loss of supportive relationships).
    These three different group overlap to a degree but cluster separately, likely with different covariables, eg demographic.
    Intervention should therefore be aimed, at a population level, with this in mind.
    29,694 as a number is a fraction of the total 88,160 quoted in that dataset, i.e. 33.68%.
    The strong majority of drug related hospital presentation is “due to” tobacco (I would say “associated with” unless particular statistical methods were used).
    The mainstream news as a rule ALWAYS conflates causation with correlation.
    (There should be a law against this!)
    That is to say:
    “TV Nine News (8/12/13) has reported that nearly 30,000 Victorians were hospitalised in a 12-month period DUE TO the effects of excessive alcohol consumption” is not the same as “30,000 Victorians with a history of excessive alcohol consumption were hospitalised in a 12-month period.”
    We don’t know why these Victorians were hospitalised, their BAL at presentation, whether it is relevant at all, or a quantification of total alcohol use n the last year and life altogether.
    It is not that helpful for understanding the outback either.
    It would be quite easy to get a study up and running, Russell, I think, with Alice Springs Hospital and at least some of the district hospitals in the catchment.
    There’s a good PhD in it.

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