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Otago experts concerned lost opportunity to curb excessive drinking

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

University of Otago mental health experts are upset another Government has missed an opportunity to curb excessive drinking and reduce harm, by taking a recommendation from the recent Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction off the agenda.

In the latest issue of the New Zealand Medical Journal out today, the group of four psychiatrists and a psychologist from the Department of Psychological Medicine at the University of Otago, Christchurch, Professor Doug Sellman, Associate Professor Simon Adamson, Dr James Foulds, Dr Ben Beaglehole and Professor Roger Mulder, outline their concerns in an editorial.

Alcohol is the drug doing the most damage to New Zealanders’ mental health and well being, the group says.

"It is the cause of wide-spread damage and suffering, and costs the country an estimated $7.85 billion per year," the editorial states.

"Apart from various emotional and mental health sequelae of injury, violence and chronic disease incouding carcinogenicity, alchohol can directly cause clinical depression, is associated with a number of anxiety syndromes and is a significant factor in causing about a third of completed suicides."

Professor Sellman says the recent report of the Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction was the fourth government initited report in the past decade that has recommended stronger regulation of alcohol.

However, the Inquiry’s key recommendation relating to alcohol has not been taken up by the Government.

The original recommendation was: "Take a stricter regulatory approach to the sale and supply of alcohol, informed by the recommendations from the 2010 Law Commission review, the 2014 Ministerial Forum on Alcohol Advertising and Sponsorship and the 2014 Ministry of Justice report on alcohol pricing."

The experts say stricter regulation of the sale and supply of alcohol is one of the easiest and most effective ways a government can improve the nation’s wellbeing and reduce misery.

"Dismantling all alcohol marketing, raising the price of alcohol and curbing alcohol sales are three of the most effective specific elements of stricter regulation, each of which has featured in the unheeded advice to governments in recent years.

"We remain hopeful that a government in the near future will show the necessary leadership to act boldly on alcohol, in similar fashion to the government which acted in the public’s best interest on tobacco 30 years ago and in fact in similar fashion to this current government’s recent action on guns."

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