'Pervasive addiction' - Psychiatrists call for rise in NZ's alcohol-buying age, price hikes

Source: 1News

Psychiatrists are calling for wide-ranging restrictions on alcohol including raising the purchase age back to 20, price increases and an advertising ban, saying alcohol harm remains the most pervasive addiction problem in New Zealand.

The Australasian study claims drinking just once a week can have serious repercussions.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists has thrown its support behind a call by The New Zealand Medical Journal for strengthening of alcohol regulations to reduce the negative impact of alcohol on New Zealanders' mental health and wellbeing.

The college says the Government's failure to address alcohol reform runs contrary to its stated focus on wellbeing.

"Alcohol harm remains the most pervasive addiction problem in New Zealand," said Dr Every-Palmer, deputy chair of the college's New Zealand National Committee.

Dr Sam McBride of the New Zealand Faculty of Addiction Psychiatry says 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, Dr McBride said.  

"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 college of psychiatrists is urging the Government to immediately raise the purchase age for alcohol back to 20.

Dr John Gregson, deputy chair of the New Zealand Faculty of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, says there is evidence that reducing the minimum drinking age to 18 led to increased numbers of young people participating in harmful behaviours such as binge drinking.

The college is also calling for a cross-agency Government approach to start developing legislation to increase the price, curtail access and promotion of alcohol.

Dr Every-Palmer says the psychiatrists wants a minimum price per unit of alcohol, hours of alcohol outlets curtailed and the number of outlets selling alcohol limited.

They're are also calling for a ban on alcohol advertising, including stopping alcohol sponsorship at all sporting events, she said.

An editorial in the latest edition of the New Zealand Medical Journal was headed "Another government ignores a recommendation to strengthen alcohol regulations".

The editorial said the recent report of the Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction included a recommendation for the Government to strengthen alcohol regulations, but the Government has chosen to ignore this.