Western Australian Youth Receives Dubious Drinking Honour

The National Drug Research Institute’s Associate Professor Tanya Chikritzhs found 22.5 per cent of West Australians aged 14-17 who drank alcohol did so to excess, consuming more than the national health guideline of four drinks per session. Nationally that figure is 18.4 per cent.

More than half of WA drinkers aged 18-24 also consumed an excessive amount of alcohol, compared to the national figure of 45.7 per cent.

Experts call for assault on teen drinking

Experts are alarmed at the levels of teen binge drinking in WA.

Experts are alarmed at the levels of teen binge drinking in WA.

New research claims more teens engage in dangerous drinking in WA than anywhere in the country, prompting calls to overhaul alcohol taxes, raise the legal drinking age and enforce tougher liquor controls.

Launching a new WA centre that aims to change the drinking habits of 14- to 25-year-olds, Curtin University’s Professor of health policy, Mike Daube, said WA had a problem with more young people taking to alcohol from as young as 14.

I think the community is ready for action, I think they are a bit tired of people just talking about alcohol and not really doing much to change things.

The National Drug Research Institute’s Associate Professor Tanya Chikritzhs found 22.5 per cent of West Australians aged 14-17 who drank alcohol did so to excess, consuming more than the national health guideline of four drinks per session. Nationally that figure is 18.4 per cent.

More than half of WA drinkers aged 18-24 also consumed an excessive amount of alcohol, compared to the national figure of 45.7 per cent.

To tackle what is seen as an increasing problem by health experts and the police, the McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth was set up to work out strategies to combat the problem and lobby for change.

Directed by Professor Daube and launched with a $400,000 donation from Tonya and Malcolm McCusker’s foundation, the centre brings together representatives from the Department of Education, Children’s’ Court, WA Police, the WA Cancer Council, the Australian Medical Association’s WA branch and child health advocate Professor Fiona Stanley.

Professor Daube said a significant increase in alcohol tax, making it harder for young people to access liquor, overhauling alcohol advertising and spending more than “token amounts” on education were urgent priorities.

He said increasing the legal drinking age from 18 to 21 would also be a significant benefit.

“We’re also going to be consulting with young people. We need to know what they think and how we can go about reducing harmful drinking, so there will be a youth advisory board,” he said.

“I think the community is ready for action, I think they are a bit tired of people just talking about alcohol and not really doing much to change things.”

Professor Stanley said drinking levels were increasing while the age of those drinking illegally was dropping.

“Alcohol and drinking in excess is actually risky for almost every health outcome you can think of,” she said.

“Even before cancer and liver damage you’ve got brain-damaging road accidents and the terrible glassing incident by that model (Eva Grace Scolaro) – those are life-changing medical problems.”

Mrs McCusker said she was so horrified by images of drunken young people in the media that she and Mr McCusker were moved to fund the centre.

“I saw girls passed out on the ground, boys vomiting in drains, intoxicated youngsters racing across busy streets, and so many other tragedies that impact on families, friends and entire communities,” she said.

Acting Deputy Police Commissioner Nick Anticich said intoxicated people accounted for 60 per cent of calls to police overall, increasing to 90 per cent of calls between 10pm and 2am.

“Young people feature as a significant part of the problem. Police continue to be concerned about their drinking patterns and the consequences of their behaviours while alcohol-affected,” Mr Anticich said.

The AMA’s West Australian president, David Mountain, called for an examination of alcohol sponsorship of sports teams and major sports arenas.

“As an emergency physician, I see the tragic consequences of alcohol almost every time I go to work,” he said.

“To watch a young life snuffed out, or left permanently disabled, is heart-breaking and is a sobering experience for anyone who doesn’t understand what harm alcohol abuse is doing to our youth.”

Related:

Read: Posted in – churchinperth.com / Salvation Army Media Release | “You Can Celebrate Without Alcohol! by Dr Lachlan Dunjey

September 20, 2010 | by Katherine Fenech | watoday.com.au "Experts call for assault on teen drinking"

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