Alcohol is the one of the most commonly used drugs in New Zealand. Most people enjoy having a drink with their friends and family in moderation. However, this ordinary behaviour leads to the many alcohol problems in New Zealand. There are no short cuts to fixing these alcohol problems. The only way to reduce them is to implement a better education system for young people, so from a young age they can have a deeper understanding of the effects of drinking. We also need to make them understand the impact their drinking can have, both on themselves and others.
Changes are also needed to the drinking culture to help reduce the number of people binge drinking. Strict laws regarding the alcohol specials that bars can have, will create a reduction in the amount of people over-drinking in public. Stronger sentences for alcohol related crimes will curb many first offenders, reduce youth drink driving and will stop repeat offenders. These ideas are not meant to be a quick fix for all alcohol related problems and it will take some time to see the effects from these changes.
However, by adding these ideas with increased enforcement to the system, we will be able to change alcohol related statistics for the better. New Zealand’s legal drinking age is eighteen years. There is always debate about raising the drinking age back to 20 in order to reduce drinking problems amongst young people. While increasing the minimum purchasing age to 20 may provide part of the solution by reducing access to alcohol by young people, this will not necessarily encourage young people to drink in a more moderate way. A study by the Ministry of Health shows that 55.
7 percent of youths aged between 12 and 17 years had consumed alcohol in the last 12 months and 12. 4 percent consumed large amounts of alcohol at least once a week (New Zealand Health Information Service 2001). We need to engage younger people to avoid alcohol related problems by educating them, not by simply raising the drinking age, as statistics show that this will not change anything for better. There are many forms of education available to schools, mainly showing statistics and chatting with students about drinking problems.
Currently we are mainly teaching our youth to abstain from drinking. In reality, this message is not getting through and the evidence shows that our current abstinence-oriented alcohol education is ineffective. Youths need to know the hard facts about drinking. They also need to be introduced to education programs that present drinking in moderation as an option, rather than an abstinence-only message. The same youths also need to be educated about the effects alcohol can cause for young people in detail, by showing statistics of how many die from liver disease and other facts they can relate to.
Studies show that in both males and females, puberty occurs when hormonal changes happen in the body. These include increases in the sex hormones, oestrogen and testosterone. These hormones increase production of other hormones, which is important for normal organ development. Drinking alcohol during this period of rapid growth and development may upset the critical hormonal balance necessary for normal development of organs, muscles, and bones. Studies in animals have shown that consuming alcohol during puberty adversely affects the maturation of the reproductive system (2004/2005).
With information that youths can relate to, they will think about drinking and why they should not abuse alcohol. Of course education alone cannot change behaviour, it needs to be used in conjunction with a whole range of other strategies include policy work, ad campaigns, service provision and increased enforcement. New Zealand has many unique pieces of culture which impress people round the world. However, these days many people are claiming binge drinking as one of New Zealand’s biggest cultures.
We need to change this and look into this problem before it becomes a bigger issue than it already is. Binge drinking is having more than 5 standard drinks for men, or 4 standard drinks for woman in one sitting, which many people do on a social occasion. Alcohol abuse is not just a problem confined to young people anymore, with 635,000 adults binge drinking at least once a week and 785,000 adults drinking regularly, often every day (The Alcohol Advisory Council, 2006).
This culture needs to be addressed by a wider range of initiatives, including encouragement for parents to make responsible decisions about the supply of alcohol to their children, and helping parents improve supervision of young people in the environments in which they are drinking. Introducing laws for alcohol related specials held at bars will help to reduce binge drink amongst young people. When you go out in town, it is not hard to find a bar with some sort of alcohol special helping to promote excess drinking. Many of these drinking specials are aimed at young students and woman.
2 for the price of 1 drinks, pay an entrance fee and drink as much as you can for free, and free bubbly for ladies are all common and dangerous ways of promoting binge drinking. Studies on the relationship between intoxication levels and alcohol related specials show that most patrons were drunk after exiting a bar where there is a drinking special. Most of these specials target young adults and sometimes they aim to get young woman only; free bubbles for lady. Binge drinking is a problem for anyone who is drinking more than they should be, but it does have a greater effect on woman.
A study at Auckland Hospital showed that 55% of all cases of alcohol poisoning were females (2001). Further, it is known that there are much more serious health issues for women. Binge drinking leads to an increased risk of breast cancer. Dr Trevor Smith said in the New Zealand Herald “One glass of wine a day increases your breast cancer risk by 10 per cent. And I’m talking a small glass – 100ml. ” He also adds that the World Cancer Research Fund findings released last November revealed a staggering 30-40 percent of all cancers could be “avoided” by lifestyle changes.
“Imagine what binge drinking is doing to [young women’s] risk; it’s massive. ” Statistics show that an increasing number of violence is occurring towards intoxicated people. This is putting many young women in a vulnerable position. After binging alcohol all night most women will not know just how dangerous it is. A drunken person was bitten in Newtown, Wellington; a drunken woman was raped near Willis Street in Aro Valley, Wellington. Both of these people had been drinking in town, got too intoxicated and exercised poor judgement by walking alone.
Drinking causes us to make some poor judgements, sometimes it may be as small as making a fool of yourself, but sometimes you can change your, or someone else’s life forever. 130 people die from alcohol related car crashes every year; a further 2000 are injured and an average of 30,000 drink driving convictions will be made every year, around 65 percent of these will be first time offenders (2005). These figures show that people are not considering the seriousness of the outcome caused by drink driving. There are drunk drivers who have previously lost their licence 20 times on New Zealand’s roads.
These offenders have been through the legal system time and time again. It is evident that these individuals cannot be educated. These drivers consider the return of their driving licence a right. New Zealand’s justice system confirms this expectation by continually rewarding these high-risk offenders by returning their licence to kill. The Land Transport Act 1998 states the maximum penalties for alcohol related accidents or causing injury or death by driving carelessly while under the influence of drinking as imprisonment for 3 years and/or a fine of $10,000, along with disqualification from driving for at least 1 year.
If you are over the legal blood alcohol limit, the maximum penalty is Imprisonment for up to 5 years and/or a fine of $20,000, along with disqualification from driving for at least 1 year. If we create harsher penalties for causing injury or death by driving while intoxicated, people would think twice about drink driving. Killing someone and getting away with 3 years imprisonment is too light, especially since you can regain your licence. The NZTA website said independent evaluations had shown the use of road safety advertising, along with police enforcement, had helped prevent 300 road deaths since 1995 (2009).
With stronger punishments we can further increase this figure. Studies show that with stronger penalties for drunk driving, the number of first time offenders is reduced and the time between repeat offences is decreased (2004). We need laws to stop recidivist drink drivers, and if they cannot change their behaviour, we need laws which will protect ourselves, our family and the people we love. Today’s society takes the issues of alcohol abuse too lightly. We need to reinforce the idea that drinking is dangerous, both for health reasons and also because it damages New Zealand’s culture.
We need to approach the situation with a new attitude if we want to change any drinking related problems. Having too many drinks can effect ones judgement. Some people become very abrasive and some very emotional. It is also true that people who have consumed alcohol are more likely to become victims of violence and sexual assault. Our current culture is encouraging youths to binge drink, often with them learning bad drinking habits at family occasions. Both parents and youths alike need to be better educated so we can break this bad habit. One step at a time, we can slowly change are drinking culture.
By introducing harsher punishments for alcohol related crime, people will be forced to think about their actions when they are drinking. The three points I have made, are designed, and need to be used in conjunction with one another. There is nothing wrong with drinking alcohol. I am not here to stop people from drinking, or pass judgement on people who enjoy having a drink. I believe that drinking can be a fun experience for adults, but we need to think about how it can affect ourselves, others around us, and society as a whole. References
Alcohol Alert, Alcohol Research & Health, Volume 28, Number 3, 2004/2005. Alcohol Advisory Council of New Zealand. 2005. The Burden of Death, Disease and Disability Due to Alcohol in New Zealand. Wellington: Alcohol Advisory Council of New Zealand. Drinking in New Zealand: National Surveys Comparison 1995 & 2000, Alcohol & Public Health Research Unit, November 2001 from http://www. womens-health. org. nz/index. php? page=women-drinking-more-alcohol Dr Weatherbur, D. (7, June, 2004). NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research Media Releases.
The impact of tougher penalties on drink-driving from http://www.lawlink. nsw. gov. au/lawlink/bocsar/ll_bocsar. nsf/pages/bocsar_media070604 Grunwell, R. (12, October, 2008). Binge drinking linked to breast cancer. Auckland, New Zealand: New Zealand Herald McCracken, H. (21, June, 2009). Graphic ad tackles drink-drivers. . Auckland, New Zealand: New Zealand Herald New Zealand Health Information Service. 2001. New Zealand Drug Statistics. Wellington: Ministry of Health. The Alcohol Advisory Council Press Release (3 April, 2006). Binge Drinking – It’s Everyone’s Problem, from http://www. scoop. co. nz/stories/GE0604/S00013. htm.