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Alcohol Use - From NZ Association Of Counsellors

Alcohol Use - From NZ Association Of Counsellors

Early in 2010 an historic public statement was issued and signed by 447 representatives, heads and leaders of Doctors and Nurses in N.Z.

The document they all endorsed was titled “An Historic Opportunity to change New Zealand’s Heavy Drinking Culture”. It was their collective response to and endorsement of the comprehensive Law Commission Review of Laws surrounding the Supply and Sale of Alcohol, headed by Sir Geoffrey Palmer.

In the preface, the Medical Spokespeople of Alcohol Action N.Z. (Professor Doug Sellman, Professor Jennie Connor and Dr Geoffrey Robinson) noted that “several other health professional groups … wanted to express support for change to liquor laws”. Those other health professional groups were encouraged to make a similar, independent statement.

This statement has been initiated and supported by members of New Zealand Association of Counsellors. It is not the intention of this statement to repeat the statistics about how we are drinking which are available in various publications, including the Law Commission’s Summary.

“The Law Commission’s Issues Paper ALCOHOL IN OUR LIVES has found that harmful drinking has become a source of serious social problems in N.Z. today” (Alcohol in our Lives, 2009)

As Counsellors working with people in the community we are not surprised by either the alarming figures published in the Summary of the Issues Paper or the hugely destructive impact of the excessive consumption of alcohol as described in the paper. (ibid, 2009)

Counsellors focus on the social, emotional, physical and psychological health of individuals, couples and families. Some counsellors (alcohol and other drug clinician/counsellors) are especially trained and skilled at assessing and ‘treating’ individuals who recognize they need to change their drinking, or drug taking habits. However, on a daily basis, all counsellors work with people who struggle with problems such as abuse, family and relationship break-down, unemployment, poverty, domestic violence, homicide, suicide and psychological trauma. Many of these problems are directly caused by or are complicated by the excessive use of alcohol or other drugs (or both).

“Every day we are presented with the disturbing evidence of the social deterioration and crime caused by the excessive consumption of alcohol”. Professor Sellman (Wanganui Chronicle article, Oct. 21, 2009)

Some instances of this ‘social deterioration and crime’ which counsellors hear about on a daily basis include:

- death or serious injury of a partner or family member caused by an intoxicated driver
- rape either while intoxicated, or by an intoxicated perpetrator
- poverty directly or indirectly caused by their own or their partner’s excessive drinking
- severe violence perpetuated by an intoxicated person (frequently partner)
- sustained sexual abuse through childhood perpetrated by intoxicated adults who are frequently family members
- severe psychological and/or physical trauma of children as a result of an intoxicated parent or caregiver
- unwanted teenage pregnancy due to young person being intoxicated
- psychological difficulties (anxiety, depression) exacerbated by excessive alcohol consumption
- relationship breakdown due to either or both party’s alcohol abuse

“Alcohol is our favourite recreational drug (RCP 2005) and as in other Western countries it currently enjoys a status that is fundamentally different to other recreational drugs in New Zealand. It is a highly commercialized marketable commodity that is available for sale, not infrequently at special discounted prices, 24 hours a day through highly accessible supermarkets and convenience stores virtually throughout the whole country. However there is a downside to this free market commercialization which is driving excessive alcohol use, and this is the enormous personal and social harm.” ( Public Statement, 2010)

The New Zealand Association of Counsellors, with the Doctors and Nurses of N.Z. support the aims of Alcohol Action N.Z. which are promoted as the “5+ Solution”.
1. Raise alcohol prices
2. Raise the purchase age
3. Reduce alcohol accessibility
4. Reduce marketing and advertising
5. Increase drink-driving counter-measures
PLUS: Increase treatment opportunities for heavy drinkers

These solutions are based on two reviews: the World Health Organisation sponsored publication, “Alcohol: No Ordinary Commodity” (Barbor, et al 2003) and a Lancet review (Anderson et al, 2009). Alcohol Action N.Z. believes these reform measures will reduce the widespread alcohol related problems that currently exist in N.Z. today.


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