Anti-binge message may 'benefit' boozers

MICHAEL FORBES
Last updated 05:00 05/04/2013

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Doctors have suggested having a nationwide anti-binge drinking campaign in the leadup to the Wellington Sevens as a way of changing its boozy culture.

The suggestion accompanies the publication of a study, "A Sobering Experience", which looks at the effect of having emergency triage and treatment zones at Westpac Stadium during the sevens in 2011 and last year, and in the central city during the 2011 Rugby World Cup games.

The study, which appears in The New Zealand Medical Journal today, shows about 60 per cent of the 121 patients seen during the World Cup and 2012 sevens would have required transfer to the Wellington Hospital emergency department in the absence of the treatment centre.

Cost savings for the ambulance service and the emergency department from not having to treat them amounted to $70,000.

In an editorial accompanying the findings, Wellington emergency medicine specialists Brad Peckler and Mai Nguyen write that it may be time for an anti-binge campaign.

"While it is doubtful that an intoxicated person would benefit from counselling at the time of presentation [at hospital], prevention is a reasonable strategy. A clear message before the event may have some benefit," they say.

"It would be hard to argue that alcohol is not part of rugby culture . . . would a media campaign prior to the sevens help change that culture?"

The study found that half the patients needing treatment at rugby events were Kiwis. The average age was 25, and 53 per cent were female.

About 30 per cent were students. Alcohol was a factor in between 80 per cent and 90 per cent of cases. Intoxicated patients can be difficult to manage and take up large amounts of resources and staff time, the authors say.

According to the Ministry of Health, 25 per cent of Kiwis aged between 12 and 65 binge-drink. Market research estimates it could be as high as 50 per cent.

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