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The time for alcohol law reform is now

18 July 2019

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) tautoko The New Zealand Medical Journal’s call for the strengthening of alcohol regulations to reduce the negative impact of alcohol on New Zealanders’ mental health and wellbeing.

‘Alcohol harm remains the most pervasive addiction problem in New Zealand,’ said Dr Every-Palmer, Deputy Chair of the New Zealand National Committee-Tu Te Akaaka Roa.

‘Excessive alcohol consumption causes so many problems for individuals, families and communities in terms of its negative effects on health and wellbeing. We need a public health focus on reducing alcohol harm.’

‘The RANZCP’s submission to The Mental Health and Addiction Inquiryadvocates for the implementation of a number of recommendations made by previous reports before more New Zealanders are harmed by alcohol.’

‘A good place to start is raising the cost of alcohol by including a minimum price per unit of alcohol and by curtailing the hours and limiting the number of outlets selling alcohol,’ said Dr Every-Palmer.

‘We also call for a ban on alcohol advertising including stopping alcohol sponsorship at all sporting events.’

As Dr Sam McBride of the New Zealand Faculty of Addiction Psychiatry explained: ‘The relationship between alcohol and poor mental health outcomes is stark and occurs through multiple pathways.’

‘Alcohol is directly associated with development of depression and anxiety as well as being used as a means of managing distress associated with these conditions. Its use has been associated with suicide and self-harm.

‘Alcohol is also linked to the experience of traumatic events to children and adults such as assaults and abuse resulting in poor mental health outcomes. These findings have been repeatedly stated by different bodies.’

‘The RANZCP urges the government to immediately raise the purchase age for alcohol back to 20 years,’ said Dr John Gregson, Deputy Chair of the New Zealand Faculty of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

‘There is evidence that reducing the minimum drinking age to 18 years led to increased numbers of young people participating in harmful behaviours such as binge drinking.’

The RANZCP calls for a cross-agency government approach to start developing legislation to increase the price, curtail access and promotion of alcohol, and raise the drinking age to 20 years.

The government’s failure to address alcohol reform runs contrary to their stated focus on wellbeing.

Legislative alcohol reform should be a priority action of He Ara Oranga’s implementation.

For all other expert mental health information visit Your Health in Mind, the RANZCP’s consumer health information website.


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