Awareness of Alcohol Problems in New Zealand

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Alcohol is the one of the most commonly used drugs in New Zealand. Most people enjoy having a drink with their friends and family in moderation. However, this ordinary behaviour leads to the many alcohol problems in New Zealand. There are no short cuts to fixing these alcohol problems. The only way to reduce them is to implement a better education system for young people, so from a young age they can have a deeper understanding of the effects of drinking. We also need to make them understand the impact their drinking can have, both on themselves and others. Changes are also needed to the drinking culture to help reduce the number of people binge drinking. Strict laws regarding the alcohol specials that bars can have, will create a reduction in the amount of people over-drinking in public. Stronger sentences for alcohol related crimes will curb many first offenders, reduce youth drink driving and will stop repeat offenders. These ideas are not meant to be a quick fix for all alcohol related problems and it will take some time to see the effects from these changes. However, by adding these ideas with increased enforcement to the system, we will be able to change alcohol related statistics for the better.

New Zealand’s legal drinking age is eighteen years. There is always debate about raising the drinking age back to 20 in order to reduce drinking problems amongst young people. While increasing the minimum purchasing age to 20 may provide part of the solution by reducing access to alcohol by young people, this will not necessarily encourage young people to drink in a more moderate way. A study by the Ministry of Health shows that 55.7 percent of youths aged between 12 and 17 years had consumed alcohol in the last 12 months and 12.4 percent consumed large amounts of alcohol at least once a week (New Zealand Health Information Service 2001). We need to engage younger people to avoid alcohol related problems by educating them, not by simply raising the drinking age, as statistics show that this will not change anything for better. There are many forms of education available to schools, mainly showing statistics and chatting with students about drinking problems. Currently we are mainly teaching our youth to abstain from drinking. In reality, this message is not getting through and the evidence shows that our current abstinence-oriented alcohol education is ineffective. Youths need to know the hard facts about drinking. They also need to be introduced to education programs that present drinking in moderation as an option, rather than an abstinence-only message. The same youths also need to be educated about the effects alcohol can cause for young people in detail, by showing statistics of how many die from liver disease and other facts they can relate to. Studies show that in both males and females, puberty occurs when hormonal changes happen in the body. These include increases in the sex hormones, oestrogen and testosterone. These hormones increase production of other hormones, which is important for normal organ development. Drinking alcohol during this period of rapid growth and development may upset the critical hormonal balance necessary for normal development of organs, muscles, and bones. Studies in animals have shown that consuming alcohol during puberty adversely affects the maturation of the reproductive system (2004/2005). With information that youths can relate to, they will think about drinking and why they should not abuse alcohol. Of course education alone cannot change behaviour, it needs to be used in conjunction with a whole range of other strategies include policy work, ad campaigns, service provision and increased enforcement.

New Zealand has many unique pieces of culture which impress people round the world. However, these days many people are claiming binge drinking as one of New Zealand’s biggest cultures. We need to change this and look into this problem before it becomes a bigger issue than it...
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