Cheers! We're killing ourselves
By EMILY WATT - The Dominion Post | Saturday, 13 December 2008

A massive hike in alcohol prices is the key solution to a national booze problem which kills nearly three people every day and injures many more, say doctors and counsellors.

Alcohol is a contributing factor to 70 per cent of emergency hospital admissions and well over half of all crime.

It costs $425 million in ACC payouts, $655 million in the public health sector, and $1.17 billion in lost productivity each year.

Those who see the devastation daily say raising the price of beer and wine, and reducing the number of liquor outlets are key solutions.

"Everyone agrees we have a problem," said Rebecca Williams of Alcohol Healthwatch. "It's very, very clear what we need to do, all we need now is the guts basically to get on and do it."

Emergency medicine specialist Paul Quigley agreed. "I'd just put the price up and sod it to all those who complain."

Wellington Hospital chief medical officer and drug and alcohol specialist Dr Geoff Robinson said New Zealand had a "huge problem" with alcohol.

His research showed that if alcohol were put through the drug-scheduling committee now, it would be a class B drug, sitting alongside Ritalin and morphine and more dangerous than fantasy.

"There's 107 medical disorders associated with excessive drinking. It affects nearly every organ."

Dr Quigley said the harm done by alcohol compared to the damage from methamphetamine was 100-1. "Alcohol is by far and away the overwhelming problem."

Both doctors say banning alcohol is not the solution, but more should be spent on rehabilitation services.

"The amount of money that's spent on `the war on drugs' versus on rehab is phenomenal," Dr Quigley said..

Counsellors say funding for alcohol treatment in the community and in prisons needs to be doubled.

Last year 23,000 people attended treatment, but up to 160,000 were in need of help.

Drug and Alcohol counsellor Roger Brooking said it could be difficult for alcoholics to make the decision to help themselves because alcohol affects the brain.

"But there's very clear research that compulsory or mandatory treatment works as well as, or even better than for people who are supposedly self-motivated."

He said the Government had allowed the liquor industry to behave like drug dealers, and said it was essential to abolish conscience voting on all alcohol-related issues in Parliament.

From here.