The Issue

National Crisis

There is a national alcohol crisis. However, this crisis is under-recognized because we have become numbed by the unrelenting presence of alcohol-related problems. The national alcohol crisis has become our way of life.

  • At least 25% of New Zealand drinkers are heavy drinkers (Wells et al 2006)
  • A third of all police apprehensions involve alcohol (Stevenson 2009)
  • Half of serious violent crimes are related to alcohol (Stevenson 2009)
  • 60 different medical conditions are caused by heavy drinking (O’Hagan et al 1993)
  • Up to 75% of adult presentations at Emergency Departments on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights are alcohol-related (Quigley personal correspondence)
  • Over 300 alcohol-related offences every day (Stevenson 2009)
  • Over 500 serious and fatal injury traffic crashes every year (Erasmus 2009)
  • At least 600 children born each year with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (May & Gossage 2001)
  • Over 1000 alcohol deaths in New Zealand every year (Connor et al 2005)
  • 17,000 years of life per year are lost through alcohol (Connor et al 2005)

But, figures and statistics such as these do not adequately capture the misery, pain and loss that many New Zealand families suffer as a result of excessive alcohol use. However, they go some way in describing the awkward truth – alcohol is causing considerable damage to our society.

What is causing the crisis?

Excessive commercialisation, including aggressive marketing by large multinational liquor companies, is a key driver of the national alcohol crisis in New Zealand. Alcohol is a highly intoxicating, addictive drug that needs to be much more carefully regulated under legislation than ordinary marketable commodities, such as fruit and vegetables (Hawkes 1993). Further, information about alcohol that consumers have the right to know and that the Government would factor into its responses to the national alcohol crisis, is being kept very quiet by the alcohol industry (Bond et al 2009).

Ten things the alcohol industry won’t tell you about alcohol

  • Alcohol is a highly intoxicating drug which is fairly easy to overdose on (Hilts 1994; Gable 2004; Sellman et al 2009)
  • Alcohol can cause brain damage (Neiman 1998; Niccols 2007; Harper 2009)
  • Alcohol causes aggression (Parrott & Zeichner 2002; Attwood et al 2009)
  • Alcohol is fattening in social drinkers (Yeomans 2004; Nutristrategy 2005; Suter 2005)
  • Alcohol can cause cancer (Corrao et al 2004; WHO 1998; WCRF 2007; Fillmore et al 2009)
  • Alcohol cardio-protection has been talked up (Corrao et al 2000; Jackson et al 2005)
  • The alcohol industry actively markets alcohol to young people (Jackson et al 2000)
  • Low risk drinking means drinking low amounts of alcohol (NHMRC 2009)
  • A lot of the alcohol industry’s profit comes from heavy drinking (Habgood et al 2001; Chikritzhs et al 2003; Foster et al 2003)
  • There is a solution to the national alcohol crisis: “The 5+ Solution”.