Changing Kiwi booze culture: It's bad for us

Last updated 05:00 17/12/2012
DRINKING DAMAGE: Even moderate drinking has genuine health risks.

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Drinking is the most common recreational drug in New Zealand.

What is worrying is that drinkers, and our society as a whole, lack an objective view of it. Drinking is seen as safe, and normal. Some even go as far to as justify their drinking with the perception of it being healthy.

This is in part due to early studies that compared non-drinkers with moderate drinkers and found health benefits. Sadly these early studies were not actually comparing lifetime abstainers with moderate drinkers. It was simply bad science, as statistical science often is.

The reality is that even moderate drinking increases your risk of liver disease and several form of cancer. Heavy drinking increases your all cause mortality - you quite often die early. You can also get severe brain damage, as well as total liver failure. It's hardly healthy to drink. Even moderate drinking has genuine health risks.

And let's not forget the behavioural effects. Drinking, especially heavy drinking, produces some bizarre anti-social behaviour. In fact higher doses of alcohol has brain effects similar to datura and ketamine. And that's why people forget things and do really weird things given enough intoxication. The behavioural effect of just a few drinks can put you in a good mood and make you more social. Anything beyond that however you risk delving in to behaviours you'd rather not be remembered for.

Ultimately, in order for the reality of drinking to come in to the awareness of New Zealand culture, it needs to be treated like the early education around smoking was.

We need to ban the advertising, make health warning labels compulsory, and then make it cool to choose not to drink.

Changing the perception is first simply making it globally known and accepted that drinking is harmful, and replacing the glamour and advertising with a more honest portrayal.

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