Drinking alcohol is popular pastime in New Zealand. Alcohol is associated with many different social occasions and is relatively cheap to buy. Alcohol is heavily advertised in the media, and it is suggested that the true extent of the damage caused by this drug is played down. While most people do not suffer serious problems as a result of their alcohol consumption, it undoubtedly causes harm to an unacceptably large number of individuals. It can also lead to problems for society as a whole.
A report by the Ministry of Health in 2009 described how 85 percent of those aged between 16 and 64 years old had consumed alcohol within the last year. There is no doubt that alcohol is the most commonly used drug in the country. There are a significant number of people who abuse alcohol and the problem shows no signs of going away. There is increasing concern about alcohol consumption among teenagers in New Zealand.
It is believed that as many as 60 percent of those who drink alcohol in New Zealand will at least occasionally consume more than the recommended limits. The Ministry of Health believes that one in six adults drink in a manner that would be considered hazardous. As many as 1,000 people die each year in New Zealand as a result of alcohol abuse. It is believed that one third of all arrests by the police involve people who have been drinking alcohol. The harmful use of alcohol costs New Zealand about NZ$4.4 billion each year (US$3.4 billion).
It is claimed that alcohol abuse is the biggest health problem in New Zealand; experts suggest that it has reached epidemic proportions in New Zealand but people are blind to it. The impact of alcohol abuse not only harms the individual but also their family and community. These are some of the effects of irresponsible drinking:
* Drinking too much greatly increases a person’s risk of becoming an alcoholic. Once the individual becomes physically and mentally dependent on alcohol, it can completely destroy their life.
* Those who overindulge in alcohol risk alcohol poisoning. Many people die each year because they have consumed too much in a short period of time.
* If people drink too much, they are more likely to have accidents. According to the Ministry of Health, 35 percent of injuries treated in Emergency departments are related to alcohol consumption. This is because inebriation makes people reckless and more prone to accidents.
* People do not have to become alcoholic before they begin to develop alcoholic liver disease. Those who regularly abuse alcohol can also be at risk of developing cirrhosis.
* Those who abuse alcohol are more likely to be involved in crime.
* Alcohol abuse leads to a great deal of lost productivity in the workplace. It accounts for a great deal of sick leave and some individuals will regularly turn up to work with a hangover. This means they are less able to do their jobs.
* Some individuals become physically or verbally abusive after they have been drinking. This can lead to problems for their family and friends.
* Drinking too much alcohol can be damaging to mental health. It increases the risk of developing symptoms of depression and committing suicide.
The legal age for drinking in New Zealand is 18. Those who are under this age are allowed to consume alcohol if they do so sensibly and while monitored by a legal guardian. Concern about underage drinking is putting pressure on the government to toughen up the laws. Auckland’s Community Alcohol and Drug Services (CADS) treated 382 clients aged under 16 in 2010. These are some of the prominent dangers of underage drinking in New Zealand:
* If young people abuse alcohol it can seriously interfere with their physical and mental development. Underage drinking can have particularly serious consequences for adolescent brain development.
* The younger people start drinking alcohol, the more likely they are to develop problems later on.
* Young people who drink alcohol are far more likely to commit suicide. This is because it can lead to symptoms of depression and the individual will act more impulsively and irrationally when inebriated.
* Inebriation can lead to teenage pregnancies and sexual assaults.
* Young people who abuse alcohol will be more likely to commit crimes or become the victim of crime.
* Young people who abuse alcohol will perform less well in school. This will limit their opportunities in adult life. It may mean that they struggle to find employment that they will enjoy.
* Those individuals who begin drinking alcohol at a young age are more likely to experiment with other drugs.
There are a number of treatment options for people dealing with alcohol problems in New Zealand including:
* The Alcohol Advisory Council of New Zealand (ALAC), which offers advice for anyone worried about alcohol abuse, including family and friends of heavy drinkers. It provides practical tips for how people can drink sensibly and guidance for those who require treatment.
* The Alcohol Drug Helpline, which provides information, insight, and support. They can be contacted for free on +64 800 787 797.
* Alcoholics Anonymous offers the 12 Step program for people who are trying to escape an addiction. There are meetings all over the country. AA can be contacted on +64 800 229 6757.
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