Posts Tagged ‘Alcohol

07
Feb
10

Dealing with alcohol, the Scotland experience

The NY Times carried an interesting piece here about the community problems attributed to a particular alcohol product in Scotland, ‘Buckfast Tonic Wine’ (a caffeine based product with 15% alcohol).  The figures cited in relation to its connection to harm and connection to incidents involving police intervention are staggering.  Interestingly, the supplier claims that the product accounts for less than 1% of total alcohol consumption.  

In the Northern Territory (and in particular Alice Springs) there are arguments that are parrallel to the political tensions in this area of Scotland. 

In Alice Springs the nominal left advocate alcohol restrictions (both in terms of trading hours and a bottom price per unit of alcohol), and the Scottish experience is often cited.  It is put that areas of Scotland with less of a social addiction than Alice Springs have taken stronger measures  to what Alice Springs has in restricting access through floor pricing and this has had greater impact to solving their problems.  The nominal right support widening restrictions and claim to support stronger personal interventions (for example, if there were trading hours during the day than services would have a greater chance of intervention as opposed to night, although no further details as to increasing the support of these services is provided).  This prompts two questions: if less than 1% of the population is affected by this particular product than is it because the proportion of those who drink the product belong to a particular class/group as against the overwhelming majority, and, if yes, is the case put for arguments in favour of ‘selective’ interventions based on this particular group/class (which appears to be the opposing argument in the Alice Springs body politic).

The Scotland experience at a place called Coatbridge indicates that broadening the trading hours hasn’t worked, and in this particular location a bottom price per unit wouldn’t apply because the ‘Buckfast’ product cost more than the bottom price per unit.  Whilst the Coatbridge experience and circumstances are different to Alice Springs it does indicate that price is not necessarily a driver of change if addiction is prevalent to this section of society (e.g. it’s not lack of money which is necessarily the issue, but a social acceptance). 

In Alice Springs in recent years a number of measures have been put in place to restrict a person’s ability to access alcohol and it is claimed that this has led to other problems (such as break-ins to premises with alcohol).  Such claims, of course, are difficult to prove on the basis of evidence but the political and (popular) public opinion views are certainly loud and clear.  Because of this ‘other’ bubbling problem (which perceivably are not as prevalent as the previous more lax alcohol supply rules), the political capital to move the solution to the next phase (or make improvements/modifications) appears stimied.  That is, there are less local advocates arguing restricting access to alcohol as a solution moving forward, partly because this places pressure on those addicted to alcohol who resort to other harmful meas to satisfy an addiction.  Because we have stronger restrictions than most other locations the argument is often caught in this context, rather than solely looking at our locality.  To further exacerbate our political and policy dilemma, the proposals currently put to extend trading hours in Alice Springs and drop restrictions (such as the requirement to provide photo id, a measure where there is pressure to drop because, apparently, it impacts upon the ‘right’ of non-alcoholics not to always furnish id) appear to be minimalist and, worse, counter-productive. 

The NY Times piece makes interesting reading for those interested in alcohol policy and its application to Alice Springs.

September 2010 observation – lately there have been many advocates arguing for further restrictions to supply.  This more recent observation overtakes the assumption above that these voices are more limited because of the ‘bubbling’ problem of those addicted to alcohol resorting to other negative means.  With reflection, I’m not sure if the reason for this observation is attributed to a cyclical lapse of political activism or other reasons.

15
Sep
09

Letter to editor: 6 months on

A letter in today’s Centralian Advocate:

It has been about 6 months since I quit alcohol. As a young adult my main reason was to send the right message to others in my generation.

I can confidently say that my challenge has been well worth it.  I never drank regularly, a weekend wind-down was always on the cards, but as more than 4 standard drinks on any single occasion is considered a health risk I was in the camp of many in the odd occasion of over-consumption.  Quitting alcohol meant that I could talk about it more and its place in our community.

If alcohol is consumed responsibly then this can be a good thing, it can be a good way to wind down and socialise.

Alcohol becomes a problem when relationships are harmed; when the amount of money spent dips too much into disposable income; when violence or abuse no matter how benign is dished out; when it is seen as an out to whatever personal or social problems persist. For some people the response to any of these experiences is to have another drink.

The problem self-generates.  For some, alcohol is a pitiless addiction.  For too many in my generation and younger alcohol and its misuse is a social contagion.  We egg each other on and poke fun at the hapless incidents. 

Abstaining from alcohol is not a solution for everybody.  I set myself this challenge to see what it was like.  Because alcohol was a weekly ritual it was difficult at first. My mind relied on its calming effects after a long week and mentally I had to adjust. Because I am a busy person it was easier for me to quash boredom without it (having boredom and no purpose is a big issue for many in Alice Springs).

Exercise helped me, as did a healthy addiction to coffee.  What I realised from quitting is that there is so much to life and its abundance that other interests can easily replace alcohol, so long as a kind of semi-dependency caused by years of use is overcome.  Without the after-effects my mind and body is better without it.

To others in my generation I hope these messages resonate.

21
Jun
09

Op-ed: Alice Springs and alcohol policy

My first printed opinion piece was published in the NT News as a follow up to my commitment to quit alcohol for one year.  I was grateful for the opportunity.  The piece suggests three policy ideas concerning alcohol in Alice Springs.

Over the fold is a pdf version of my original submission and a scan of the News piece.

The following is my original submission:

As the first from the Generation Y (those born 1980-1995) to be elected to a municipal Council in the Territory I was honoured in March this year to be elected Deputy Mayor of Alice Springs. My generation lives within a specific set of circumstances and I am obliged to advocate reform with this in mind. In my new role my first decision was to quit alcohol for one year.

My main motivation is to set an example. If the National Health and Medical Research Council recommends no more than 4 standard drinks on any single occasion then excessive alcohol consumption in the Territory is commonplace. Too often we leave the task of finding solutions to policy makers without realising that it is also us who can build a social and cultural intolerance of alcohol misuse.

(continued over the fold)

Continue reading ‘Op-ed: Alice Springs and alcohol policy’




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