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Binge Drinkers Risk Death

Alcohol Advisory Council
Press release
September 23 2003

Binge Drinkers Risk Death

Binge drinkers, whether they are adults or young people, are risking their lives, says the Alcohol Advisory Council.

The warning follows the release in the last two weeks of two Coroners’ reports into the deaths of two men. In both cases, the coroners attacked the current culture and acceptability of binge drinking.

“Both individuals appeared to have consumed the better part of two 1.1 litre bottles of lower strength spirits. While these drinks have only two-thirds of the strength of full strength spirits, in excessive quantities they are quite capable of killing a full grown adult,” said ALAC’s Chief Executive Officer Dr Mike MacAvoy.

”People may be being lulled into a false sense of security by the term “low strength” and the relatively cheap price of these products,” he said.

“However, drinking a bottle and a third was the equivalent of consuming a bottle of full strength spirit. Such an amount was capable of causing death by shutting down the body’s breathing control centre and causing the loss of reflexes such as coughing.

“The 19-year-old who died in Whangarei did so because he inhaled vomit into his lungs, was unable to cough it up, and effectively drowned in his own vomit.”

Dr MacAvoy said the consumption of this amount of alcohol over a short period of time is life threatening as these two cases tragically demonstrated.

“And it’s not just a problem with young people. The Taumarunui case involved a 38-year-old. Binge drinking is a national problem which we have to address.”

Dr MacAvoy said he was also concerned that many people didn’t know what to do to keep an intoxicated person safe.

“If you are unsure whether a person is in a life threatening situation, call an ambulance. Always ensure the person is lying on their side and check if they are breathing and their mouth is clear. If they are not breathing begin CPR. The warning signs are generally an inability to wake someone up after drinking or someone who is throwing up non-stop.”

Above all never, never leave a person by themselves if they have passed out, he warned.


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