More wraparound support needed to stop harmful drinking - expert

More wraparound support is needed to combat harmful drinking, an expert says.

It comes after Green Party MP Chlöe Swarbrick’s Supply of Alcohol (Harm Minimisation) Amendment Bill was pulled from the members’ bill ballot on Thursday, meaning it will be introduced in Parliament for debate.

The bill aims to ban alcohol sponsorship of sports and venues, as well as giving power back to communities to decide how many liquor stores can operate in their area.

READ MORE: Alcohol rules to be considered after Swarbrick's bill is pulled

Drug and alcohol psychotherapist James Hill told Breakfast the proposed bill "does more than just not doing anything".

"I'm surprised that there would be any clapback on it because it affects every voter across all the parties".

He said New Zealanders have normalised drinking harmful amounts.

“Any of us in the studio right now would know at least one or a couple of people that we have either have laughed about as them being too wasted or that we’re concerned about because they’ve been too wasted. That speaks for itself.

“Because it’s become so normalised, we run out of energy to cry about it.”

Hill said he’s often found in his line of work that “when people are abusing alcohol, when we sort of move away a lot of the things, we find that they’re self-medicating more than anything”.

“[Alcohol is] one of the only accessible and affordable options that they have to get the help to treat traumas that they’ve been through.”

He said the abuse of alcohol was even more apparent in Māori and Pasifika men.

“We turn a lot of our trauma into something that we laugh at ‘cause it just hurts so much, so often that's the only way to counter it is through humour.”

The Ministry of Health in 2008 estimated one in six New Zealand adults had a hazardous drinking pattern. The figure increased to one in five in 2020/21.

“I would say that it was the worst when I was a little kid, it was the worst when I first came into the industry and it’s the worst now," Hill said.

“I’d have to say that it's always been the worst and it’ll still be the worst unless we sort of wrap around and support people more as a community.”

Hill says the harmful effects of alcohol "doesn’t discriminate".

"I’ve seen the richest of richest people and the poorest of poorest and right across the board,” Hill said. “Every culture that I’ve seen, alcohol is a problem.”

He said he believes the solution to minimising harmful drinking is not necessarily to limit its accessibility "because they’re going to find it if they need it” but having “more wraparound support” to normalise seeking help.

Hill said drinking is "so ingrained into celebration" and as a “rite of passage” after turning 21, people will "become naturally so ashamed when it becomes a real problem".