Researchers at the University of Melbourne say there's evidence that lesbian and bisexual women drink two to three times more than heterosexual women. They are trying to find out why that is the case and are hoping their findings will lead to new training programs for the medical profession.
We're living longer, but smoking, obesity takes toll on health
The Australian | 14th Decemeber 2012
AUSTRALIANS are living longer but chronic diseases such as diabetes are taking a greater toll on our health, a global study shows.
The life expectancy for Australian men and women has improved over the past 20 years, the Global Burden of Disease 2010 study found.
Australians' life expectancy was now in the top five in the world, said Professor Alan Lopez, the head of the University of Queensland's School of Population Health, who co-authored the study.
The life expectancy of Australian men had improved by about six years to 79.2 since the last study in 1996, while women could be expected to live on average 83.8 years, up from 80 years two decades ago, he said.
Heart attacks and lung cancer were the biggest disease burdens in Australia and New Zealand, the research found.
However, Prof Lopez said the disease burden from tobacco products in Australia had lessened.
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) says the Federal Government should act quickly to stop a company making stickers to hide health warnings on cigarette boxes.
A Gold Coast company is making a variety of stickers to hide the olive green plain packaging and graphic warnings on tobacco products.
Federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek has asked lawyers to investigate whether the stickers breach the plain packaging laws, which came into effect less than a fortnight ago.
AMA president Steve Hambleton says the stickers need to be stopped.
"Those graphic health warnings are there for a very important reason. Over a million Australians have died because they smoked, but I think covering up those health warnings, I think the Federal Government is going to act very quickly and ban those products," he said.
Drinking culture patterns revealed in Australia by 2 separate reports
AFN | 12th December 2012
Two reports by Deakin University and the Cancer Council Victoria respectively have made separate findings on alcoholic drinking patterns in Australia.
The Deakin University study is Australia’s largest study into alcohol-related crime. It found that the increasingly common practice of drinking before leaving to go to a nightclub is a major predictor of people experiencing harm or violence.
The study compared effectiveness of alcohol-related crime prevention measures put in place between 2005 and 2010 through licensing regulation in Newcastle (NSW) and voluntary programs run in Geelong (Victoria). The study found that measures that dealt directly with alcohol consumption employed in Newcastle, such as restricted trading hours, were the most effective in reducing alcohol-related crime.
A range of interventions were analysed in the study including locking patrons out of clubs after 1.30am, clubs closing by 3.30am, banning alcohol shots after 10pm and limits on the number of drinks being served.
A CULTURE of downing alcohol before going out is significantly contributing to violence and harm in pubs and clubs, Australia's largest study into alcohol-related nightlife crime has found.
And the most effective way to deal with it is to increase the price of alcohol by introducing a levy on packaged drinks, Peter Miller, a Deakin University researcher and author of the study, says.
"We spent a lot of time trying to think of other ways to deal with pre-drinking and simply couldn't," Associate Professor Miller, from the School of Psychology, said.
"There are many people drinking immediately before approaching the door of venues, either around the corner from the pub, in their cars or in their homes, and it is so difficult for venues to detect that unless someone is very obviously intoxicated when they arrive."
MANY believe a glass or two of wine is good for them, with its antioxidants working to protect the heart as the alcohol hits the head.
But if you are carrying a bit of extra weight, drinking has no protective effect, new research has found.
An obesity expert from London, Tim Lobstein, said previous findings that small amounts of alcohol lowered heart disease risk were taken from surveys more than 40-years-old.
Studies have indicated alcohol may raise levels of good cholesterol and be beneficial to blood vessels, while antioxidants in wine are thought to protect arteries.
‘‘But we were concerned that the findings may not apply to our modern, fatter population,’’ said Dr Lobstein, an adjunct professor at Curtin University’s Public Health Advocacy Institute in Perth.
Researchers revisited the data and found the protective effect held for slim men, but not for those with a Body Mass Index above 27.5. An index of 26 to 30 is considered overweight.
Australia's cigarette plain packaging laws come into force - video
The Guardian (UK) | 1st December 2012
Shops in Australia restock their shelves as world-first laws on cigarette and tobacco plain packaging come into force on Saturday. Brand logos and colours have been replaced with generic drab olive green coverings, gruesome pictures of diseased body parts and depictions of children and babies made ill by their parents' smoking
TOBACCO investment by the government and public sector will be banned in NSW, in a move applauded by health groups.
The withdrawal of up to $224 million could be the single biggest blow to tobacco investment ever seen in Australia, but will need the support of the independent State Super to be fully implemented.
The chief executive of action on smoking and health Australia, Anne Jones, said the NSW decision could lead to other governments and super funds taking similar action.
''It's possible that billions of dollars are invested in tobacco companies by Australian Governments and individuals through their super funds,'' she said. "Take billions away from an industry and you take away their power and influence to expand''
It is called the ''silver tsunami'', the wave of ageing baby boomers about to hit the health system with alcohol and drug problems.
Preliminary findings from a UNSW study at the Prince of Wales Hospital suggest almost one in five people over 60 presenting at aged care services may be substance abusers.
The study, presented at the Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and Other Drugs conference this week, found that of the 240 patients aged 60-plus who were screened, 47 were classified as substance abusers. Alcohol accounted for two-thirds of cases, with other patients testing positive for misuse of sedatives and painkillers
'Legal highs' pose deadly threats, warns drug expert Dr Robert Ali
Adelaide Now | 23rd November 2012
ADELAIDE'S pre-eminent drug expert Dr Robert Ali has warned tens of thousands of ordinary Australians are risking death or serious illness by buying "legal highs" on the internet, falsely thinking they were safe.
The director of SA Drug and Alcohol Services, Dr Ali said a new cohort of law-abiding young people were attracted to the drugs because they were falsely told they were "legal".
He said for two drugs alone, synthetic versions of cannabis, 65,000 Australians had been tracked in one month searching the internet on how to buy them.
Dr Ali said authorities had been particularly concerned about an internet purchase of a chemical spin-off of LSD, a thousand times stronger, that had caused three deaths in SA this year.
A PROJECT that cut grog-fuelled violence in country NSW could hold the key to tackling the problem in Sydney's Kings Cross, the state government says.
The Alcohol Action in Rural Communities project reported a 33 per cent reduction in alcohol-related street offences in 10 test communities across NSW.
The measures used in the five-year study included interactive sessions at high schools on alcohol risks, GPs prescribing anti-alcohol medication and local police targeting high-risk weekends.
Launching the findings in Sydney on Thursday, NSW Healthy Lifestyles Minister Kevin Humphries said the collaboration between agencies that promoted the rural program would also be employed to reduce public drunkenness in Sydney's nightclub district.
Group buying sites luring under-age drinkers, say experts
The Sydney Morning Herald | 11th November 2012
PUBLIC health experts have called for a crackdown on websites that promote ''ridiculously cheap'' alcohol, claiming they fuel Australia's drinking problem and appeal to under-age drinkers.
Group buying sites - which offer daily deals on meals, beauty treatments and household products - are increasingly emailing members with offers of up to a 70 per cent discount on booze bought in bulk.
Recent offers include an OurDeal promotion knocking $140 off the recommended retail price of a dozen bottles of wine and a bottle of whisky and a LivingSocial offer of a case of wine for $59 - less than $5 a bottle.
Catch of the Day's Vinomofo discounted wine site has been criticised for using a trade name that directly appeals to young people and for an ''irresponsible'' competition in which entrants could win a Mini full of wine.
A GENERATION of young Tasmanian men are smoking at almost double the national average, making them the nation's biggest smokers.
Almost half of young men in the state are smokers, well ahead of any other state.
Dr Julia Walters, a Hobart GP who conducts research into smoking, said the men were placing not only themselves at risk but also their young children.
"This is a shocking statistic," she said. "These are young men in their most productive years. This is the age at which they are most likely to be around young children".
The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics national health survey reveals a staggering 45.8 per cent of Tasmanian men aged 25 to 34 are smokers well ahead of the national rate of 26.7 per cent for men that age.
ALCOHOL warning labels may increase awareness among adolescents about the dangers of drinking, but are unlikely to curb risky behaviour such as drink-driving and bingeing, Sydney researchers have found.
While adolescents overall had good knowledge about alcohol-related risks, the study found the impact of alcohol warning labels diminished over time as their novelty wore off.
The review, conducted by the Australian Catholic University's school of psychology in Victoria, was carried out as a growing number of health experts call for mandated health and safety warnings on alcohol packaging.
Published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, it referred to an Australian study from 2010 that found adolescents did not think health dangers applied to them.
PREGNANT women and indigenous Australians are being targeted in a new anti-smoking campaign that comes a month before all cigarettes have to be sold in plain packaging.
The latest statistics suggest one in seven Australian women smoke during pregnancy, and of pregnant teens in 2009, 37 per cent were reported to be smoking.
Almost half of pregnant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders smoked during the same year.
Federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek says the campaign is designed to support women rather than shame them into quitting.
''Education and support are the best way forward for helping people give up. We know that tobacco is a very strong addiction,'' Ms Plibersek said. ''I'm sure that most women who are smoking while they're pregnant would like to give up.''
An increase in deaths from prescription painkillers is alarming, but the problem does not arise from one simple cause. Professor Louisa Degenhardt, from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, says we must avoid the temptation of thinking that one single intervention will offer a solution.
The harm caused by prescription opioids has captured the media's attention in recent weeks.
This was in part prompted by new data on accidental opioid deaths in Australia presented in a report by the University of NSW's National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC).
ORDERING a schooner at the pub may cost more if proposed alcohol taxation reforms are taken up by the federal government.
But it's a cheaper price to pay than the medical, social and economic collateral damage incurred by harmful booze consumption, a report commissioned by the Foundation for Alcohol and Research and Education (FARE) says.
Alcohol-related problems - including emergency department visits, long-term illness and abuse - are conservatively estimated to cost Australia $15 billion a year.
FARE chief Michael Thorn says increasing taxes across the board, particularly for cheap wine, would cost moderate drinkers more but also generate substantial net benefits for the community, the economy and the health of Australians.
Rise in prescription drug deaths highlights issue of chronic pain
The Age | 30th October 2012
The recent National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre report raising alarm about increasing numbers of deaths from prescription opioids, reflects a much bigger issue: the millions of Australians whose lives are severely affected by chronic pain.
At least one in five Australians, including children, lives with chronic pain; among people aged over 65, it's one in three. The report's revelation there were more than 500 opioid-related deaths in a year - the majority from prescription drugs such as oxycodone - is indeed tragic. In 2008 deaths from prescription drugs were more than double the number of accidental overdose deaths from heroin. But the number of young people whose lives are ruined because of chronic pain is devastating on an even bigger scale.
Opioid drugs such as oxycodone play a valuable role in treating acute pain, especially after surgery or trauma. However, they may not be suitable for the treatment of long-term chronic pain from a disease or injury.
The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) commissioned a report to look into the damage of binge drinking and the benefits and costs of taxing alcohol rationally.
Norman Swan: A major study, a cost benefit analysis in fact, being released tomorrow morning by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education provides strong support for tax reform in the alcohol sector and argues that a minimum of a quarter of a billion dollars a year could be saved as a result. It's part of a consistent and long term push by the public health community to have all alcohol taxed by alcohol content, so-called volumetric taxation,
The analysis of alcohol taxation was performed by economist Dr John Marsden.
John Marsden: It happens at the moment through a volumetric excise on all alcohol except wine. Wine is subject to a wine equalisation tax which is on a value basis.
Norman Swan: What do you mean?
John Marsden: That means that if the wine is a very cheap wine it pays negligible tax, if it's a very expensive wine, a bottle of Grange, then it pays $30 or $60 per bottle tax, whereas the cardboard containers pay almost nothing.
'HELL OF A PROBLEM': Prescription drugs fuel alarming death spike
News.com.au | 24th October 2012
IT'S our new drug crisis.
Australia is experiencing its biggest spike in opiate-related deaths since the heroin epidemic of the 1990s, but the majority of deaths are being blamed on prescription painkillers such as oxycodone - also known as 'hillbilly heroin' – and morphine.
An analysis by researchers at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) at the University of New South Wales, found 500 Australians aged 15 to 54 died of an opiate overdose in 2008, up from 360 in 2007.
The report, based on the latest figures from the Bureau of Statistics, projects this figure will climb to 705 overdose deaths in 2010 when figures for that year have been confirmed
A news.com.au report on the rise in prescription opiate overdoses today sparked fierce debate among readers who have used the drugs.
We revealed this morning the biggest spike in opiate overdoses since the heroin epidemic of the 1990s is underway. It's fulled by an increase in deaths from prescription drugs oxycodone and morphine instead of herion.
Millions of smartphone users including young people are downloading pro-smoking apps that are potentially breaching laws banning tobacco advertising, researchers says.
The apps, some explicitly displaying cigarette brands, are available under categories including entertainment, games, lifestyle and even health and fitness.
University of Sydney researcher Nasser Dhim says those grouped under health and fitness often claim to help users quit smoking. Users simulate smoking by inhaling and exhaling near the phone's microphone.
One, Hotsmoke, features a virtual cigarette that burns faster if you inhale faster. Another, MyAshTray, displays messages such as "would be even better with a beer in your hand" when virtual cigarette ash is dropped in the tray.
Mr Dhim, a PhD candidate and lead author of the study, says there is no evidence smoking simulation helps smokers quit, but there is evidence it reinforces the habit.
"Basically, it is used to enforce that behaviour which is simulated, not to change it," he told AAP.
THE evidence in favour of minimum pricing for alcohol is so strong it is only a matter of time before it is introduced, says the author of new research that found the policy had drastic effects when it was implemented overseas.
The Canadian study has found a 10 per cent increase in the minimum price of alcohol was linked to nearly an 8.5 per cent decrease in alcohol consumption.
The body charged with advising the federal government on preventative health, the National Preventative Health Taskforce, is soon expected to deliver the findings of a draft report into the issue of minimum alcohol pricing.
Anti-binge drinking campaign launch
ABC News | 19th October 2012
Cringe the Binge was created by the Byron Youth Service and aims to reverse the culture of binge drinking in Australia, particularly amongst young people.
Part of the campaign will be a national weekend of action on November 9, 10 and 11, where Australians will be asked to donate the money they would normally spend on alcohol to Cringe the Binge.
Negative warning labels on pre-mixed alcoholic drinks may help curb binge drinking among high-risk youths, research shows.
Researchers from the University of Western Australia (UWA) examined the impact of brand, alcohol content and warning statements on pre-mixed alcoholic drinks commonly purchased by people aged 18 to 25.
They found that, over time, alcohol warning statements could influence buying habits, but the impact varied.
The 300 participants in the UWA study were each asked to make decisions about their preferences for different alcoholic drinks, choosing between combinations of brands, alcohol content levels and warning statements.
Older people misusing painkilling medication have driven the first rise in deaths from heroin and other opioid drugs in more than 10 years, experts say.
Preliminary figures indicate that deaths from the drugs increased from 500 in 2008 to more than 700 in 2010, analysis from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales has found.
The study leader, Amanda Roxburgh, said the upward trend in deaths was the first since the heroin drought began in 2001.
But heroin deaths only accounted for about 30 per cent of the deaths in the study, with the rest due to opioids such as the painkillers oxycodone and morphine.
University of Western Australia | 2nd October 2012
Alcohol warning labels can play a role in influencing the purchasing behaviour of young people, according to a new study from researchers at The University of Western Australia.
Assistant Professor Wade Jarvis and Professor Simone Pettigrew, from the UWA Business School, examined the impact of brand, alcohol content, and various warning statements on the purchasing choices of 18-25-year-old drinkers of pre-mixed alcoholic drinks.
With a large percentage of young Australians engaging in risky drinking behaviours, Assistant Professor Jarvis says alcohol warning statements can play a role in reducing purchasing over time.
‘In the 2007 National Drug Strategy Household Survey, around 40 per cent of 14-19-year-olds and 60 per cent of 20-29-year-olds reported consuming alcohol at risky or high-risk levels at least once in the previous 12 months,' he said.
‘In our study, we found that worded messages can influence behaviour, but the impact varies.'
Mixing energy drinks with alcohol (AEDs) as party beverages is a growing trend among young Australians, who are putting their health at risk by consuming amounts beyond what is deemed safe, according to new research.
An Australian first study examining the patterns of consumption and associated harms of AEDs among young Australians found most were unaware of recommended limits of daily consumption or related health risks. It found some consumed in excess of eight AEDs on a typical night out with friends.
Dr Amy Pennay and Professor Dan Lubman, from Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre and Monash University, surveyed Victorians aged 18 to 35 and documented patterns of consumption of AEDs over a six-month period.
Survey shows growing support for ban on alcohol until 21
The Australian | 1st October 2012
ONE in three people believe that the legal drinking age should be lifted from 18 to 21, a new survey has found.
While 46.3 per cent of the 2685 respondents to the adelaidenow survey said 18 was the right age to drink legally, 37.1 per cent said the legal drinking age should be lifted to 21.
Medical groups and experts said there was growing support and evidence for raising the legal drinking age.
The poll results follow the Australian Medical Association's call last month for the legal drinking age to be lifted to 25, which is the approximate age when the brain becomes fully developed. AMA president Dr Steve Hambleton said more people were acknowledging the problems caused by alcohol.
"A figure of more than 30 per cent support tells me that the population is starting to think about alcohol in a more comprehensive way and recognising the damage that alcohol is causing to our young people," he said
Alcohol companies are spending millions of dollars helping convince young people that drinking early and often is integral to having fun and being popular, according to a leading public health and marketing expert.
Professor Simone Pettigrew, Director of the Health Promotion Evaluation Unit at the University of Western Australia, told the AMA’s National Summit on Alcohol Marketing to Young People that alcohol manufacturers and liquor outlets spent an estimated $16 million on 2810 television ads in less than two months, most of it to promote beer and spirits.
Professor Pettigrew said the analysis, conducted in 2010, showed that humour and friendship were the predominant themes of the ads, but the marketing also sought to associate alcohol with sport and physical activity, and emphasised that it was good value for money.
Parents who drink at these events may consider there is a social benefit to doing so. But what does this behaviour mean for children and young people who might be watching and learning from the example set by their parents and teachers?
Alcohol-fuelled violence causes serious head injuries, it must stop now writes Brian Owler
adelaidenow | 27th September 2012
WHEN the skull hits the pavement it makes a sickeningly loud cracking sound. If it is the result of a "king hit" the victim is usually already unconscious and so cannot protect themselves as they are falling.
The sudden stop of the head on the pavement means that the brain is squashed against the skull and rebounds. If death does not result immediately then the brain bruises and swells.
Weeks of treatment in intensive care follows and if the patient survives, brain damage is common. Neurosurgeons know this pattern all too well and too often it is a result of alcohol-fuelled violence.
Alcohol-fuelled violence is unfortunately a pervasive part of our society and has been for too long.
UNDERAGE drinkers and their parents would be fined up to $1000 for attempting to enter licensed premises or even setting foot inside bottle shops under radical proposals by the state's pubs and clubs.
Pubs say all the onus on keeping minors out of drinking venues is on them at present and the NSW government should establish a deterrent for kids who play the game of sneaking inside a pub before they are legal.
Paul Nicolaou, the chief executive of the Australian Hotels Association, said: ''Kids should know there is a punishment - a fine of some sort - for trying to get into an establishment when you're not the legal age. And if the kid can't pay, the parents should have to pay and they can get the money back from their child in some way. At the moment there is no deterrent.''
Doctors plead for an end to the 'dumb drinking culture' in Australia
news.com.au | 16th September 2012
DOCTORS fed up with booze-fuelled violence are pleading for Australia's "incredibly dumb drinking culture" to be stamped out through increasing tax on alcohol, raising the minimum age, forcing pubs and clubs to close earlier, watering down alcopops and shaming drunk dads.
Their appeal follows a News Limited investigation which has revealed not only the shocking community cost of Friday and Saturday night mayhem - but that our hospital emergency departments can no longer cope.
In-depth analysis of 175 king-hit media reports over the past seven years reveals 82 per cent occurred on weekends, most commonly in the witching hours between midnight and 4am.
About 70 per cent happened in or near pubs or clubs.
Drug & Alcohol Handbook for Aboriginal Health Workers
Friday, 7 September 2012, 10:19 am | Press Release: University of Sydney
Drug And Alcohol Handbook Responds To Call From Aboriginal Health Workers
It has to fit in the glove box and you shouldn’t need a medical degree to make sense of it. It needs to be practical and useful to someone working in Cape York or in Adelaide. I’d like it to help me work with families, the community and keep track of the latest sleeping pills, inhalants or illegal drugs as well as the latest treatments.
In response to such requests, and in a first for Australia, a handbook written with and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health professionals has answered the call for a comprehensive resource to help clinicians address alcohol and drug issues.
The Handbook for Aboriginal Alcohol and Drug Work, which the Governor of NSW, Professor Marie Bashir will publicly launch on 10 September, is written specifically for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health professionals.
In a move to prop up its promise of delivering a surplus in 2012/13, the Labor government has proposed to lift the tobacco excise tax by 25%. This would raise $5 billion over four years, according to a report in The West Australian.
The proposal would lift the price of a pack of 30 cigarettes by $2.62, and may be timed to coincide with the introduction of mandatory plain-packaging for tobacco products from the 1st December
FURTHER restrictions on the online advertising of tobacco products will come into place this week as the federal government looks for ways to reduce the smoking rate further.
From Thursday, online tobacco advertisements will be largely banned as the internet becomes subject to the same restrictions as other media.
''These changes will limit the exposure of the public, particularly young people, to tobacco advertising on the internet, or published advertising, for example via mobile phones,'' Minister for Health Tanya Plibersek said. ''Smoking kills 15,000 Australians a year and we are committed to our fight to rid Australia of this product, which, if used as the manufacturer recommends, will kill the user.''
The federal government last month celebrated a victory in the High Court which rejected the tobacco industry's challenge to legislation that will ban brand logos and trademarks on cigarette packets from December 1.
The regulations that come into force this week will require tobacco retail websites to list products for sale in plain black and white text only.
Booze and drugs culture rife in construction industry: study
Brisbane Times | 3rd September 2012
For better or worse, construction has a blokey reputation, but new research from Brisbane finds a "hazardous" consumption of recreational drugs and booze is latest problem facing the industry.
And the macho culture is partly to blame, alongside high wages and transient job patterns, according the Queensland University of Technology team that led the national survey.
The Safety Impacts of Alcohol and Other Drugs in Construction study drew nearly 500 workers from all areas of the industry across Australia and involved surveys and interviews over two years.
The findings, presented today by project leader Professor Herbert Biggs at an international industry conference in Scotland, showed over 50 per cent of workers consumed alcohol at "hazardous" levels, and a further 15 per cent were at "significant risk of harm"
Senior doctors and anti-smoking campaigners have told Sky News they are working towards making the UK a no smoking nation within the next 20 years.
Leading specialist Professor John Britton has called on the Government to back the goal, describing it as entirely realistic.
"Andrew Lansley could make himself a legacy greater than that of almost any other Health Secretary in history," Professor Britton, who chairs the Royal College of Physicians Tobacco Advisory Group, said.
"I think it will be entirely realistic for all practical purposes to eradicate smoking within 20 years."
IT is possible to exceed the healthy drinking limit of two drinks per day by spending just 50 on cask wine, according to a new study which calls for an end to the discount tax rate on wine.
The move would triple the price of cask wine and earn the Government $1.5 billion a year.
Cask wine is currently taxed at 8 per standard drink but full strength beer is slugged with a tax rate of 42 and spirits 92. In a submission to a government inquiry into whether a minimum price should be placed on alcohol the Foundation of Alcohol Research and Education says ending the discount taxation of wine should be a higher priority
IN THE face of calls for measures to counter grog abuse, the alcohol industry is financing an academic critique of "nanny state" measures, importing a New Zealand economist who challenges a $15 billion estimate of the annual cost of alcohol abuse in Australia.
The move comes as an alcohol research group today releases research showing that alcohol is far more affordable today than it was 30 years ago, to back its calls for heavier taxes on cheap alcohol.
The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE), commissioned the Australia Institute study which found that incomes have risen at three times the rate of alcohol prices in the past 30 years and that the cheapest wine now cost less than bottled water.
The NZ economist, Eric Crampton, yesterday told an alcohol industry-sponsored briefing in Canberra that a widely-cited Australian study had relied on incorrect economic arguments to support "paternalistic" policy to combat excessive drinking.
Prolonged cannabis use leads to drop in IQ, study shows
The Sydney Morning Herald | 28th August 2012
AUSTRALIAN doctors and health researchers have called for an anti-tobacco smoking-style campaign on the dangers of cannabis after a study found a link between long-term use of the drug and a significant, and possibly irreversible, drop in intelligence.
The landmark study, the first to compare the IQ of users before they began smoking the drug and after prolonged intake, found cognitive decline was most pronounced in people who started using as teenagers.
A senior lecturer at the University of NSW's psychiatry department, Matthew Large, said the findings were particularly relevant to Australia, which had one of the highest rates of cannabis use in the world.
Pot-Smoking Teens May Become Slower-Thinking Adults
U.S Research/Study | 28th August 2012
Teens may lose IQ points later in life if they smoke marijuana before age 18, according to a study that follows a survey showing use of the drug has increased in this age group for four straight years.
The research reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found an average decline of eight points on IQ, or intelligence quotient, tests done at age 13 and 38 among those who began using marijuana as teenagers. That compared with no decrease in those who used pot later in life, and a slight increase in those who never used it.
Because marijuana is the most frequently used illegal drug in the U.S., looking into how it changes the brain is important, said Madeline Meier, a post-doctoral researcher at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, who led the study
Roxon's family motivation for plain-packaging push
ABC News | 28th August 2012
Nicola Roxon, the woman credited with spearheading the Federal Government's unprecedented win over 'big tobacco' has spoken of the personal motivation behind her drive to see Australia become the first country to legislate plain packaging of cigarettes.
The ABC's Australian Story has taken a behind-the-scenes look at what drives Australia's first female Attorney-General, and the impact the tobacco-related death her father had on her time in Cabinet.
Ms Roxon was 10 when her father Jack Roxon died of a tobacco-related illness.
ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher is using a national report on drugs in prisons to urge opponents of a needle exchange program to change their minds.
The four-year investigation by the Australian National Council on Drugs found the millions of dollars spent trying to stop drugs entering prisons is not working, and the money would be better spent on treatment and harm minimisation.
Potential drink-drivers could soon be deterred from jumping behind the wheel by a bathroom mirror.
The mirrors look just like regular bathroom mirrors, but are actually fitted with a camera that feeds a high-resolution reflective video screen. Instead of having a perfect reflection, the mirror pauses for a short moment before changing.
After showing the person a delayed reaction for a few seconds, the mirror then flashes up messages about drink-driving, such as: “This is how slow your reflexes are after only a few drinks”. The tag-line for the campaign is: “Getting home safely starts with a good look at yourself”.
Tobacco ban for people born after the year 2000 passes Tasmanian upper house
New Statesman (world afairs) | 27th August 2012
The Tasmanian legislative council, the upper house of the Australian state's bicameral legislature, has passed a motion calling for sales of tobacco to anyone born after the year 2000 to be banned. The law, if passed through the lower house, would result in an effective outlawing of tobacco around the year 2100 in the state.
The act is unlikely to make it through the entire legislative procedure, however: the Labor health minister is in favour of it, but their coalition partners in the state, the Greens are opposed, as are the opposing Liberal party. In fact, the motion likely only made it this far due to the unusually un-partisan nature of the Legislative Council – 13 of the 15 members are independent.
Study says people smoking at young age suffer from greater amount of artery damage
Swiss Study | 27th August 2012
Study conducted by Swiss researchers show that people who smoke cigarettes at a young age have a greater amount of artery damage that can lead to cardiovascular disease.
According to a research led by Julia Dratva, a doctor at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute and presented at the European Society of Cardiology in Munich, the narrowing of the carotid artery, known as CIMT was detected in the young smokers between 8 and 20 years of age.
The study found that tobacco cigarettes caused an increased thickness of 0.043 millimeters in the blood vessels compared to adults who were non-smokers.
Just one alcoholic drink a day may increase the risk of cancer, according to a new study, which estimates that light drinking is responsible for 34,000 deaths a year worldwide.
New research based on more than 150,000 men and women shows that light drinking increases the likelihood of cancer of the mouth, pharynx, oesophagus and breast.
One drink a day increased the risk of cancer of the oesophagus by almost a third, according to the study being reported in the Annals of Oncology, which analysed data from more than 200 research projects. Low alcohol intake increased the risk of oral cavity and pharynx cancer by 17 per cent, and breast cancer in women by 5 per cent.
AUSTRALIANS would rejoice if medical science could prevent 30 per cent of cancer deaths in this country, yet a solution is already available.
Cancer Council of Australia chief executive Ian Olver says a dramatic reduction of cancer deaths is possible, simply with lifestyle changes. Those choices include not smoking, moderate alcohol consumption, eating healthy food and reasonable exercise.
The recent ruling by Australia's High Court which in effect supported the government's decision to require cigarettes to be sold in olive-brown packets seems likely to limit the uptake of smoking by young people, but this is only one component of what should be a far broader approach to improving Australia's overall health.
Estimating the economic cost to Australia of tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs is reasonably inexact. It seems the most credible work on this is by Collins and Lapsley, and that data is based on 2004-05 figures. However, it certainly gives an indication of the need to address the use of these drugs.
In summary, in 2004-05, tobacco smoking was estimated to cost Australian society $31.5 billion; the consumption of alcohol, $15.3 billion; and the social cost of illicit drug use was estimated at $8.2 billion. We now need a study of the social cost of junk food.
Australia’s leading alcohol research and education body has presented NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell with a comprehensive plan to reduce alcohol-related harms in NSW.
In the wake of last week’s announcement that the NSW Government would introduce new restrictions to tackle alcohol-related violence in Kings Cross, the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) has urged the Premier to go further and introduce proven measures that will result in substantial reductions in alcohol-related harms.
In addition to addressing the availability and oversupply of alcohol, the plan also advocates a ‘user pays’ model that would see late night licenced premises contribute to the cost of alcohol-related harms through the introduction of risk-based licencing fees, proposes that communities be given greater say on the availability of alcohol in their community, and calls for the introduction of appropriate transport and crowd management options in high density areas.
Drinking more than the recommended daily amount of alcohol has been linked to eye disease.
Consuming more than 20g of alcohol a day was associated with an increase in early age-related macular degeneration of about 20 per cent in men and women compared with non-drinkers.
The study was adjusted for other age-related macular degeneration factors including sex, age, smoking and diet.
A standard glass of wine or beer each contains about 15g of alcohol.
Previous studies have highlighted the risk of heavy drinking on eye health but there was little evidence until now about the association between moderate drinking and age-related macular degeneration, study author Madeleine Adams said
Austalian court deals blow to global tobacco giants by ruling that cigarettes must be sold in plain packaging WITHOUT brading
MailOnline (UK) | 15th August 2012
Australia is banning the sale of branded packaging of tobacco produts after the High Court dismissed a challenge from international cigarette companies on the new anti-tobacco marketing laws.
The court ruled the laws did not breach Australia's constitution dispelling the claim by tobacco companies that they were unconstitutional because they effectively extinguished their intellectual property rights.
Parents don't tell the truth about alcohol at kids' parties, expert Paul Dillon says
adelaidenow | 10th August 2012
PARENTS often lie to each other about serving alcohol at their children's parties, a drug and alcohol expert says.
Drug and Alcohol Research and Training Australia director Paul Dillon said it should be against the law to provide other people's children alcohol even at a private home.
"Parents are lying to other parents," he said. "They will call and ask, 'will you be providing alcohol?'
"And (one of these other) parents will turn around and say, 'no, there will be no alcohol at the party', and it's actually a lie.
"There should be a law against that.
"If a parent provides alcohol to other children, that is very shameful because basically you're pushing your values on to others."
Mr Dillon, who gave presentations at South Australian high schools, including Adelaide's Pulteney Grammar, over the past few weeks, said because some parents provide alcohol at parties it puts other mums and dads in a "terrible position" because if they refused, they were not the "cool parents".
Marijuana and memory: study shows it's not good news
The Sydney Morning Herald | 9th September 2012
Australian scientists say they have proved that persistent heavy marijuana use damages the brain's memory and learning capacity. Their study showed for the first time the earlier people developed a cannabis habit, the worse the damage.
Scientists from Melbourne's Murdoch Childrens Research Institute (MCRI), Melbourne University and Wollongong University used Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to scan the brains of 59 people who had been using marijuana for 15 years on average. The images were compared with scans of 33 healthy people who had never used the drug.
Scientists show 2-drug combination has potential to fight cocaine addiction
LA JOLLA, CA, August 8, 2012 – A fine-tuned combination of two existing pharmaceutical drugs has shown promise as a potential new therapy for people addicted to cocaine—a therapy that would reduce their craving for the drug and blunt their symptoms of withdrawal.
In laboratory experiments at The Scripps Research Institute, the potential therapy, which combines low doses of the drug naltrexone with the drug buprenorphine, made laboratory rats less likely to take cocaine compulsively—a standard preclinical test that generally comes before human trials.
While the two-drug combination would have to prove safe and effective for people in clinical trials before approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the work represents a significant advance in the field because there are currently no FDA-approved medications for treating cocaine addiction.
TEENAGERS who smoke cannabis weekly are more than twice as likely as non-users to develop an anxiety disorder in their late 20s, even if they stop using the drug, new research has shown.
The research, published in the journal Addiction, drew on the results of a landmark 15-year study of nearly 2000 Victorian secondary students. An analysis of data collected between 1992 and 2008 found teenagers who smoked cannabis once a week or more for a period of at least six months doubled their risk of having an anxiety disorder for up to a decade afterwards. About 12 per cent of teenagers in the study - or one in eight - smoked cannabis at that level.
The association between cannabis use and anxiety disorders persisted even when researchers took into account other possible explanations, including pre-existing mental health problems or other drug use.
Plain packaging of cigarettes encourages young smokers to heed health warnings
EurekAlery | 7th August 2012
New research published online in the scientific journal Addiction shows that plain packaging (requiring cigarettes to be packaged in standard packages without attractive designs and imagery) may help to draw the attention of some adolescent smokers to the health warnings on the package. If so, this may in turn deter young smokers from continuing to smoke.
Researchers asked eighty-seven teenage secondary school (high school) students from the city of Bristol, UK, to look at twenty images of cigarette packs on a computer screen for ten seconds each while a device tracked their eye movements. Some packs were plain, carrying only the name of the brand in a plain font and a standard pictorial health warning. The rest were the conventional and colourful packs of ten popular cigarette brands, which included the same health warnings.
Students who had never smoked paid attention to the health warnings on both plain and branded cigarette packets, while daily smokers tended to avoid looking at any health warnings at all. But students who were occasional (non-daily) smokers, or had tried smoking at least once, paid more attention to the health warnings on the plain packs than to those on the branded packs.
AUSTRALIA'S push for plain cigarette packaging has inspired India to consider similar laws, opening up a new frontier in the fight to reduce tobacco consumption.
A taskforce of Australian and Indian public health experts last week presented a report to the New Delhi Parliament urging India, the world's second-largest tobacco consumer and producer, to act. The report, by the Australia-India Institute based at the University of Melbourne, found 275 million Indians, or more than a third of the population, use tobacco, leading to nearly 1 million deaths a year. Many are children who are increasingly getting hooked on chewing tobacco, causing rates of oral cancer to soar.
The Indian government has welcomed the report's recommendations, with Shakuntala Gamlin, joint secretary in the Ministry of Health, stating: "We have a huge young population addicted to tobacco. Plain packaging, particularly the Australian case study, can be an example for India.''
A new study shows how tobacco smoke weakens bones by blocking the replacement of bone cells.
ASH Australia has welcomed the study and slammed the tobacco industry for staying silent on decades of research on their product’s bone-shattering harm.
Says Anne Jones, Chief Executive of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Australia: “We know smoking and secondhand exposure can cause osteoporosis - weakening of bones – which increases fracture risk and is a major cause of disability. This new study shows how it happens.”
According to Osteoporosis Australia, the disease causes an admission to an Australian hospital every 5-6 minutes - expected to rise to every 3-4 minutes by 2021 as the population ages and bone fractures increase.
TWELVE sports associations will become teetotal when it comes to alcohol sponsorship after a $25 million deal with the government.
The groups have struck a deal to promote safe alcohol consumption by adults, alcohol-free sporting environments for minors and to reduce alcohol promotion in their codes.
But the AFL and NRL were not part of the deal. Those that do have a stake include national associations for soccer, basketball, netball, swimming, cycling, hockey, athletics, skateboarding, volleyball, equestrian, triathlon and canoeing. They will be precluded from sponsorship that promotes alcohol consumption as it would be in conflict with the health campaign message of Be the Influence, Tackling Binge Drinking.
Australians are living longer but getting fatter, a new report says
The Daily Telegraph | 23rd June 2012
AUSTRALIANS are living longer - but also getting fatter, eating badly and not doing enough exercise, a report card on the nation's health reveals.
Obesity rates continue to grow, with Australian men rated the second most obese in the developed world and women the fifth highest.
About three million Australians are obese - 25 per cent of adults and 8 per cent of children - with only 50 per cent eating the recommended two serves of fruit a day and less than one in 10 eating five serves of vegetables each day.
While we might be a sport-loving nation, only 40 per cent of Australians aged over 15 do enough exercise.
PREGNANT women could be panicked into abortions if health warnings make them feel guilty about drinking, the Winemakers Federation has told a parliamentary inquiry into alcohol-related birth defects.
Australia's health ministers will make cigarette-style health warnings mandatory on bottles and cans of wine, beer and spirits, unless the alcohol industry brings in its own labelling system within 18 months.
Winemakers and brewers are already using a pictogram of a pregnant woman, with a warning based on National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines that "it is safest not to drink while pregnant".
Improving the health of Australia, one Sunday at a time
Drink Tank | 18th June 2012
Over the last ten years FARE has invested more than $115 million, helped 750 organisations and funded over 1,400 projects addressing the harms caused by alcohol misuse. One of these FARE-funded programs was an evaluation of Hello Sunday Morning (HSM).
According to the Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol, in Australia, alcohol is second only to tobacco as a preventable cause of drug-related death and hospitalisation. Alcohol accounts for 13 per cent of all deaths among 14 to 17-year-old Australians — with approximately one Australian teenager dying and more than 60 hospitalised each week from alcohol-related causes.
It is this kind of information that inspired Chris Raine to establish HSM, a blogging website that encourages young people to undertake a period of sobriety and reflect on their drinking habits. To date, more than 4,500 HSMers have chosen to take a break from alcohol and reflect on its role in their lives.
Plea for help over alcohol-fuelled violence in Penrith
Penrith Press | 16th June 2012
LOCAL licensees are putting their heads together and asking the community to offer solutions to a notorious after-midnight problem: alcohol-fuelled violence.
The main issue is the ``migration problem'', where patrons move from one venue to another late at night, consuming alcohol as they travel.
While Panthers is still taking measures to erase its name from NSW's Level 1 violent venues list, chief operating officer Sue McNeill is searching for a solution to young people's restlessness after midnight.
A third of 14- to 19-year-olds drank at levels that put them at risk of injury at least once during the previous month;
Around 28% of 14- to 19-year-olds reported being victims of alcohol-related verbal abuse (and 13% were victims of alcohol-related physical abuse) in the previous 12 months.
Parents may believe they no longer influence their teen’s behaviour and the choices they make about using alcohol. But the evidence tells us that what parents do, how they communicate their expectations to their children and whether they supply alcohol does influence their children’s choices.
We looked at the highs and lows of illicit drugs last week during our Friday talkback. But there was one drug we didn’t touch on, and that’s because this drug is legal—alcohol.
Whether or not you use it, alcohol is very much a part of Australian culture and identity: at the footy, going out with friends on a Saturday night, settling in to watch a movie, at work functions and weddings.
But how does the alcohol drug affect us? Our bodies? Our relationships? In the short- and long-term?
As the opposition health spokesman, I am acutely aware of the harm caused by illicit drugs. As a former police officer, I contributed to this difficult fight in the real world. As a father I understand how dear children are to parents no matter their circumstances.
A recent report by the non-profit group Australia21 advocates decriminalisation with the strongly emotive title The Prohibition of Illicit Drugs Is Killing and Criminalising Our Children and We Are All Letting it Happen. I strongly oppose ending illicit drug prohibition because it would be a dreadful experiment with the future of our children, who are the very fabric of our nation. I contend that the decriminalisation of illicit drugs would be more likely to kill and criminalise children and we should not let it happen.
THE misuse of prescribed pharmaceuticals is Australia's fastest growing drug problem, raising the possibility that deaths from prescribed drugs may eventually surpass those from illicit drug overdoses, doctors have warned.
Structural issues in the health system including limitations of GP consultations and rapid hospital discharges are contributing to an explosion in prescriptions for opiods, benzodiazepines and codeine-containing analgesics.
Police will be given new powers to stop parents turning a blind eye to under-age drinking, making it a criminal offence to host house parties where alcohol is consumed by under-18s.
Under the plan being pushed by the O'Farrell government to make it easier for police to fight the teenage booze culture, adults would face a maximum 12 months' jail for supplying alcohol to any minor who is not their own child. Police and academics have welcomed the push, saying it has to be made clear drinking ''begins at 18, not before''. But civil liberties groups warned against turning parents into criminals over a ''sip of champagne''.
Take it from an ex-addict, outlawing drugs does not work
WA Today: Opinion | 25th May 2012
When society hates and fears you, criminal conviction means little.
FOR five anguished, exhausting and educative years in the 1990s I, like thousands of other ordinary Australians, was addicted to heroin. And I can honestly say that during that time the thought that heroin was illegal was very far from the top of my mind.
I was focused on protecting myself from violence, hoping to avoid overdose, battling overwhelming messages of shaming and hostility from society, and simply getting through each day without collapsing. In this way, although I was never actually charged with using heroin, the criminal penalties attached to the drug would inevitably propel me further and further into a dark, unhappy, alienated and criminal world.
FIFTY two per cent of Australians arrested for crimes say alcohol or drug use was a factor, according to an Institute of Criminology report released today.
The report, based on data, including urine samples and interviews, collected by the Drug Use Monitoring in Australia program at nine police stations in 2009, found of 1631 police detainees who had used drugs or alcohol, 52 per cent admitted it was a factor in their crime.
The figure was higher for alcohol use (41 per cent) than illegal drug use (33 per cent). The illegal drug most often cited was heroin (54 per cent). Almost half of heroin users said they committed their crime to pay for their habit
Following recent announcemnets that scores of alcohol and other drug (AOD) service provides would no longer receive Federal Government funding, some of those services have been granted a three-year reprieve.
It appears the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) has listended and responded positively to the concern expressed by many AOD sector leaders and service providers about the impact the funding changes would have on people who have problems with substance use, particulary vulnerable groups such as Indigenous populations, families and people with a dual diagnosis of drug and mental health problems.
Depending on who you talk to, cannabis is either the scourge of our youth - threatening to turn us all into mentally ill layabouts - or a peaceful, benign herb that not only will not hurt its users, but could actually treat many illnesses.
For a drug that is supposed to have a relaxing effect, it sure causes much consternation.
At the Herald's debate "Should the government decriminalise drugs", held on Monday night at the University of Sydney, audience members argued cannabis was a different kind of drug, a safe choice.
Australia, it seems, likes cannabis. The most recent figures indicate a little more than 10 per cent of people used cannabis last year, slightly up on 9 per cent the year before
Why changing drug laws is a political problem, not a scientific one
The Sydney Morning Herald | 23rd May 2012
The overarching goal of Australian drug policy is harm minimisation. One obvious way to minimise drug related harm is to prohibit its use.
Of course, prohibition hasn't stopped illegal drug use any more than prohibiting drink-driving has stopped people from drinking and driving. It's entirely likely, however, that illicit drug consumption would be higher in the absence of prohibition.
Some reject this, often citing Portugal as an example. However the Portuguese reforms are not an example of decriminalisation. It was and remains possible to be sanctioned for drug possession and use in Portugal.
THE eminent public health campaigner David Penington has condemned political leaders over their failure to engage in a debate on drug use reform.
Professor Penington said he was not surprised by the negative reaction of the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, to the Australia21 report calling for a drugs debate.
''That's why she's taken the position she's taken on gay marriage and all those sort of things, because she's appealing to the uneducated, conservative emotional reactions to all sorts of things,'' he said.
Professor Penington, who headed a drug inquiry recommending the decriminalisation of marijuana, said courageous leadership was ''not part of our political system at the moment on either side of politics. They just don't want to know.''
MORE than half of Australians support reduced legal penalties for use of drugs such as cannabis and ecstasy, an analysis of a federal government survey shows.
The findings contrast with the Herald/Nielsen poll released yesterday, which showed that two-thirds of people opposed decriminalisation.
But that is explained by the different way the poll questions were structured, said Alison Ritter, who heads a drug policy modelling program at the national drug and alcohol research centre at the University of NSW.
BANS on advertising, health warnings on bottles and higher liquor taxes should be considered by the Federal Government to combat alcohol problems in Australia, a new poll reveals.
The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) released a Galaxy poll yesterday to showcase alcohol attitudes and behaviour in Australia. The poll first asked federal voting intentions and then asked them different questions about alcohol.
Being tough on criminals may be a vote-winner, but putting addicts behind bars only causes other problems.
EACH country gets the drugs problem it deserves.'' This is the view of Antonio Maria Costa, the former head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. His explanation is blunt: countries that rely primarily on law enforcement to deal with drug addicts and their associated crimes, rather than treating users as sufferers, perpetuate an expensive cycle of addiction, crime, incarceration and recidivism.
AUSTRALIANS remain firmly against relaxing illicit drug laws despite declarations by a group of eminent Australians and a global commission that the war on drugs has failed.
A Herald/Nielsen poll has found two-thirds of Australians oppose decriminalisation.
The finding shows little change in attitudes from a similar poll taken 13 years ago.
The latest poll finds 27 per cent of voters support decriminalisation, although that figure rises to 50 per cent of Greens and 34 per cent of Labor voters. Support among Liberal and National party voters is much lower, at 18 per cent.
The Sydney Morning Herald (opinion) | 21st May 2012
Drugs have become so normalised in today's youth culture the penalties just don't matter as much. Not only that, but the subcultures with the highest rates of drug consumption - raves, clubs, music festivals and hospitality - have the police almost turning a blind eye to small rates of drug consumption because it is already so common. Prohibition is not working.
In Portugal, drugs were decriminalised in 2001. Today there is a bulk of evidence pointing to Portugal as a leader in drug reform. Not only have rates of drug use declined in almost every measured category, but Portugal also has the least amount of drug use when compared with the EU countries with more stringent criminalisation measures.
IT IS the drug of choice across the country and claims the largest share of the illicit drug market globally. But new figures have painted an even more alarming picture of Australia's marijuana trade, with authorities making a record number of cannabis seizures at the Australian border last year.
According to the Australian Crime Commission's Illicit Drug Data Report 2010-11, the number of border detections increased by 47 per cent, from 1454 to 2137. There was also a staggering 255 per cent increase in the weight of cannabis seized, from 20 kilograms in 2009-10 to 69.6 kilograms last year.
According to statistics from the Australian Crime Commission's Illicit Drug Data Report, released last week, almost 70 per cent of clan labs are in residential areas.
Known to authorities as methamphetamine, detections of such substances account for about 15 per cent of all drug discoveries in NSW, including cannabis. They account for about 40 per cent of detections if cannabis isn't included.
In 2010-11, police shut down a record 703 of these operations across Australia.
A PROMINENT alcohol researcher has backed calls by the NSW Police Commissioner, Andrew Scipione, to examine the role of bottle shop sales in areas with stubbornly high rates of domestic violence.
Michael Livingston, a research fellow at the Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre in Melbourne, studied the density of all types of liquor outlets in Victoria and found bottle shops were key.
''As you increase bottle shops in a neighbourhood you increase rates of domestic violence and rates of chronic disease,'' he said. ''We know that they're concentrated up to eight times more in poor neighbourhoods than rich neighbourhoods in Victoria.''
CHILDREN are the victims of alcohol-related harm in more than a fifth of Australian households, a study has found, adding weight to calls for the price of alcohol sold in bottle shops to be increased to discourage high quantities being consumed in homes.
Most of the children were harmed by immediate family members or by other relatives, and the rest by the drinking of family friends, neighbours, coaches, religious leaders or others, according to the study, which is published in the latest edition of the international journal Addiction.
Alcohol is a prime target for taxation. It’s a good source of government revenue; it allows governments to recoup costs for providing services to drinkers (such as accident and emergency care and policing); it provides a mechanism for drinkers to pay for the harm they impose on others as a consequence of their drinking; it helps discourage excessive drinking due to information failure (not all drinkers are aware of all the risks of drinking and some harms are not yet understood) and drinkers’ tendency to discount the long-term harms of alcohol; and reduced consumption of alcohol has known public health benefits. Moreover, a recent Australian review of the evidence clearly showed alcohol taxation is cost-effective.
Given the utility and cost-effectiveness of alcohol taxation, the challenge is to identify an optimally efficient tax system: one that maximises the potential benefits of restrained alcohol consumption for the least amount of cost to those who don’t consume alcohol to excess.
WHILE the Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione's high level alcohol policy working group sets its sights on bottle shops, in one NSW suburb the residents say they already know the answer: stop building them.
Residents in the Lake Macquarie suburb of Mount Hutton who are attempting to stop a Woolworths bottle shop from being approved say liquor outlets should be treated under the same planning laws as brothels.
Residents say Mount Hutton, which has a high rate of alcohol-related assaults and vandalism, has enough liquor stores. They also oppose the BWS shop because it is close to a school.
THE Police Commissioner, Andrew Scipione, has questioned the lack of regulation of purchases from bottle shops and linked the easy availability of take-away alcohol to stubbornly high rates of domestic violence.
The issue will be examined, at Mr Scipione's request, by a new alcohol policy working group comprising senior police and bureaucrats who will present options to the state government.
The Herald can reveal that the group, formed this year, is conducting a comprehensive review of the alcohol licensing system in response to an offer by the Premier, Barry O'Farrell, last year to give police whatever support they needed to tackle alcohol-related violence.
Police probing club's free alcohol offer to students
The Age | 13th May 2012
A PROMINENT St Kilda nightclub is under police investigation over claims its promoter used social media to induce under-age students to attend a party with offers of free alcohol.
The Sunday Age is aware of at least 20 students, some as young as 16, who were sent wrist-bands that entitled them to free beer, vodka and ''bubble cup cocktails'' at the opening of Homecoming Saturdays at the Prince of Wales Hotel on May 5. Guests were posted the wrist-bands after providing their addresses on the promoter's Facebook page but were not required to give any proof of age.
Almost a quarter of Australian families say children in their care are being harmed by alcohol, mostly through verbal abuse, research shows.
A national survey of 1142 parents or carers found 22 per cent of children were harmed in the previous year by the drinking of family, friends or neighbours. There was no difference between low and high-income homes, but children in single-parent homes were at greater risk.
The study, by Melbourne's Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre, found children in one per cent of households were physically hurt as a result of alcohol abuse.
Researchers said the results were concerning and levels of binge drinking in Australia were high.
Study finds alcohol ads get to at least a quarter of kids
The Sydney Morning Herald | 25th April 2012
Half the alcohol ads shown on Australian television are shown at a time when at least 25 per cent of possible child viewers will be watching, new research led by the University of WA has found.
The findings, published in the Drug and Alcohol Review, noted that alcohol ads were banned during dedicated children's program times but found half of the screened ads were shown at a time when adults and children were commonly viewing.
WA medical experts have backed a submission to the Federal Budget calling for alcoholic drinks to be taxed according to their alcohol content, which would increase the cost of cleanskin and cask wine and traditional ciders.
The Alcohol Policy Coalition wants the federal government to introduce a volumetric tax in what it says would create a financial incentive to purchase lower-strength alcoholic beverages.
It also is calling for a minimum floor price on alcohol to prevent heavy discounting and raise the cost of high volume, high strength products such as cask wine. Such a move was recently made in the United Kingdom.
Australians still not aware of smoking risk to heart: new report
Heart Foundation Media Release | 20th April 2012
A major international report on tobacco has revealed that nearly half of all smokers are still unaware that secondhand smoke can cause heart attack.
The report Cardiovascular harms from tobacco use and secondhand smoke was released today at the World Health Federaton World Congress of Cardiology in Dubai, attend by the National Heart Foundation of Australia's CEO Dr Lyn Roberts.
The report commissioned by the World Health Federation revealed:
In the UK, the USA and Australia, nearly half of smokers are unaware that secondhand smoke causes heart attacks in non-smokers
Even in countries with well-develop health systems and tobacco control regulation such as Canada, the UK, the USA and Australia between a third and a half of smokers do not know that secondhand smoke can cause heart disease.
Tobacco giants fume at Australia's plans for unbranded cigarette packets
The Guardian | 20th April 2012
World's big four firms take fight against unbranded packs to high court as Australia moves to toughen anti-smoking laws.
They have been responsible for some of the most famous advertising and marketing campaigns in history, but this week the world's big four tobacco companies found themselves on the back foot. In a global test case, they went to Australia's highest court to try to block plans for cigarettes to be sold in unbranded packets.
From December, all cigarettes in Australia will have to be sold in olive-green packs with stark health warnings, graphic photos and no brand logos. Only company names will be permitted in a small, standard font.
British American Tobacco, Philip Morris, Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International argue that moves to force them to use unbranded packaging are unconstitutional because they allow the government in effect to acquire their property – the trademarks and logos – without compensation.
Energy drink binge leaves teens with more than a hangover
The Conversation | 19th April 2012
Manufacturers of energy drinks are coming under pressure from governments and regulatory bodies following concerns about the health impacts of their products on teenagers and other at-risk groups.
Typically, drinks such as Red Bull, Monster, Mother and Cocaine contain a cocktail of caffeine, taurine, glucuronolactone and sugar. And they are heavily promoted to shift workers, students and long-haul drivers.
There’s growing international concern about the likely negative health effects of energy drinks. A growing body of research evidence directly links energy drink consumption to cardiovascular risk and other adverse health outcomes
AUSTRALIA'S drinking problem seems to be getting worse rather than better, with the latest snapshot of the nation's alcohol habits finding more people are drinking significantly more than is good for them.
More than a quarter (27 per cent) of 18-24-year-olds now say they are downing at least six standard drinks in a typical night out or other drinking session - considerably more than the four-drink limit recommended by health experts to minimise the risk of short-term harms such as accidents.
But the problem is also seen in the wider community, with the report released yesterday finding 1.7 million Australians are now drinking to excess in this way - a 4 per cent increase on the figure reported in the previous year's survey.
The figures were produced as part of the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education's annual alcohol poll, which was conducted online by Galaxy Research poll using a representative sample of just over 1000 Australians.
Health expert challenges wine body on pregnancy labels
The Conversation | 18th April 2012
A claim by Australia’s peak wine body that warning labels on bottles could prompt pregnant women to seek terminations is an “outrageous attempt to put commercial interests ahead of public health”, a drugs and alcohol expert said.
The Winemakers' Federation made the suggestion in a submission to a parliamentary inquiry into Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. The submission warns there is a “great risk” for women whose only understanding of the risks to the unborn baby came from labels.
In Australia, it is not a requirement that alcohol carry health warning labels, although there has been a concerted push in recent years to change that.
A poll by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education found that 61% of Australians support alcohol warning labels.
A vast majority of Australians think the country has a serious booze problem and that binge drinking by young people is a blight on society.
The Annual Alcohol Poll, released on Tuesday, found that 76 per cent of those surveyed thought Australia suffered from a drinking problem.
Seventy-nine per cent believed the issue would either worsen or remain the same over the next five to 10 years.
Of the more than 1000 people surveyed for the third annual poll, 17 per cent viewed booze as the number one health threat facing the country, ahead of tobacco at 16 per cent and diabetes at eight per cent.
The research by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) also found that Australians were largely unaware of how many standard drinks were in a range of alcohol products, with 66 per cent underestimating how many drinks were in an average bottle of red wine.Full Article
Australia a nation of boozers: poll
9 News | 17th April 2012
More than 75 per cent of Australians believe the country has a problem with excessive drinking and alcohol abuse, a national poll has found.
The Annual Alcohol Poll, released on Tuesday, found that 76 per cent of those surveyed thought Australia suffered from a drinking problem.
Seventy-nine per cent believed the issue would either worsen or remain the same over the next five to 10 years.
Of the more than 1000 people surveyed for the third annual poll, 17 per cent viewed booze as the number one health threat facing the country, ahead of tobacco at 16 per cent and diabetes at eight per cent
Synthetic cannabinoids carry substantial risk say experts
ABC News | 13th Aprilb 2012
Drug experts warn that alternatives to organic cannabis are not safe
The synthetic cannabinoid compound known as blue puff will be banned Australia wide from the first of May.
According to those researching these drugs and their effects, as soon as some synthetic cannabinoids are banned, producers simply made another.
Professor Steve Allsop from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Institute explains that the substances were first produced in labs in an effort to discover whether or not they could be exploited for medicinal purposes.
Over 400 cannabinoids have been identified since the 1980s, he says.
While the government and producers were "playing cat and mouse" in some sense, there are good reasons to stay in the game, says Professor Allsop.
Decriminalisaton or legalisation: injecting evidence in the drug law reform debate
The Conversation | 12th April 2012
We should all be concerned about our laws on illegal drugs because they affect all of us – people who use drugs; who have family members using drugs; health professionals seeing people for drug-related problems; ambulance and police officers in the front line of drug harms; and all of us who pay high insurance premiums because drug-related crime is extensive.
Drug-related offences also take up the lion’s share of the work of police, courts and prisons. But what can we do? Some people feel that we should legalise drugs – treat them like alcohol and tobacco, as regulated products. And legalisation doesn’t necessarily need to apply for every illegal drug.
ONE in three young people receiving treatment for drug and alcohol abuse from a Sydney charity have also attempted suicide, new research has found.
And three quarters of those receiving treatment are also suffering from mental health issues, the Noffs Foundation says.
The findings have been released on the eve of National Youth Week - which starts tomorrow - in an attempt to secure more support services for adolescents.
Noffs Foundation spokesman Matt Noffs says appropriate support is needed to help youths.
"The work we do with them isn't just about eliminating drug use, but providing vulnerable young people who have gone through trauma with the right support to put them back on track to reach their full potential in life," Mr Noffs said.
Where there's smoke, there's good reason for higher health premiums
The Age | 12th April 2012
So it is a challenge to keep premiums affordable. One way to do this is to discourage risky behaviours that could increase claim costs.
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Smoking, for example, is the single most preventable cause of ill health and death in Australia. Tobacco use causes almost 12 per cent of deaths - it is estimated that smoking will kill at least half of all regular smokers - and contributes almost 8 per cent to the burden of disease.
Governments have used several measures over the years to discourage people from smoking, including advertising restrictions, taxes, preventative health campaigns and plain packaging for cigarettes.
The federal government should disassociate itself from international objections to a Thai plan to introduce mandatory health warning labels on alcohol bottles, the Greens say.
Australia is one of a group of countries that have repeatedly raised concerns at the World Trade Organisation about a proposal by the government of Thailand to mandate health warnings on alcoholic beverages sold in its country.
The WTO is also being used as a forum by some countries to challenge Australia's tobacco plain packaging laws.
Greens health spokesman Richard Di Natale said Australia should be following the example of Thailand and introducing compulsory health warnings on alcohol bottles instead of questioning the move. ''It's a huge public issue and unfortunately what we've got in Australia is industry labelling that is being driven by industry perspectives, rather than by public health perspectives,'' Senator Di Natale said.
WESTERN suburbs drug and alcohol experts have backed calls for greater focus on harm minimisation rather than law enforcement in tackling drug use.
A report by not-for-profit think-tank and independent research body Australia21 has argued that the tough-on-drugs policies have failed, putting control of drugs firmly in the hands of criminal elements.
The report concludes that low-level drug use should be decriminalised, with the large sums of money spent on law and order redirected to prevention and treatment services.
"Needle exchange programs, a medically supervised injecting centre, methadone maintenance programs and the de-penalisation of minor cannabis offences that was introduced in [two] states and both territories have all produced measurable and demonstrable benefits," the report states.
Australian teenagers appear to be swapping one drug for another, with a WA study finding they drink more alcohol and use more ecstasy when their marijuana use falls.
Researchers at the National Drug Research Institute said that between 1998 and 2007, fewer 14 to 19-year-olds smoked marijuana and the age at which teenagers first tried the drug rose from 14 1/2 to just over 15.
But, over the same period, rates of risky alcohol consumption and ecstasy use increased in the same age group.
There was also a drop in tobacco smoking, which was thought to affect rates of other types of smoking.
Is disagreement over drugs policy based on facts or values?
WA Today | 10th April 2012
I've had a good deal of engagement with the media in recent days. It's taken me closer to "the real world of politics" where values and prejudices can be just as, or more important than, facts and evidence. Thus it is and more than likely will always be.
As part of the Australia 21 roundtable that produced a report on drugs policy I was asked to comment. It is an issue, of course, that involves a good deal of passion and emotion, factors that can impact significantly on the way individuals view the arguments and the evidence.
This leads us to ask the question: Is this debate over drug policy about the values people have or the evidence that has been gathered by the scientists?
Australians have always loved their drugs – more so than any other nation in which those same drugs are proscribed and used under threat of native, criminal penalties.
Drug taking is a national trait. We began as a nation of drug takers – drinking, inhaling, swallowing and even injecting easily accessible legal narcotics.
By the early years of Federation, fears about the exposure of pale European sensitivities to the intolerably harsh antipodean climes saw medicinal proprietors (or “quacks” in today’s medical terminology) foist some 600 different medicinal products in Australia, many containing significant amounts of narcotics
AN expert on drug and alcohol abuse has called for a rethink about whether it is effective to throw legal and financial resources at prosecuting minor offences.
Speaking on Sky News's Australian Agenda, the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre's Michael Farrell said more research was needed to determine what the benefit was to society from the current approach to policing illegal drug use.
"(We're) spending two-thirds of the money on enforcement, putting people in prison and that sort of thing and actually to figure out what's the best spend we can have" Professor Farrell said.
"We probably need to do a lot more -- evidence as to valuation around customs, policing and prisons and all that -- so that we actually get a better mix than we probably have at the moment."
Professor Farrell's comments follow a week of debate about the decriminalisation of illegal drugs, after think tank Australia21 released a report arguing the war on drugs had been lost and the tough approach to policing illegal drug use was doing more harm than good.
New figures show 10 per cent of teens aged 16 years and under admit to regular drinking sessions, where they consume 11 to 30 standard drinks.
Al-Anon Family Groups Australia has reported a spike in the number of parents of young alcoholics attending meetings, exasperated that their attempts to wean their kids off the bottle have failed. The group also held its first special support session specifically aimed at parents of alcoholics at the Alcoholics Anonymous national convention last week.
There was also a well-attended session entitled Young Persons meeting - getting sober under 25 aimed at giving youngsters the tools to break the binge-drinking cycle
West Australians are bigger drinkers than their Eastern States counterparts across every measure with one in eight adults binge-drinking at least once a week, according to figures.
Almost half of people aged 18 and over report some binge-drinking, or having more than four standard drinks on any day, and 6 per cent claim to drink at this level every day or on most days.
Drug and Alcohol Office data, sourced from the 2010 National Drug Strategy Household Survey, shows drinking rates across all categories, from occasional drinking to risky consumption, are higher in WA compared with the Australian average.
Nobody would claim that drugs are harmless, any more than they could say that alcohol was harmless. Alcoholism is a terrible social problem, but banning it never worked in the US. All prohibition did was create Al Capone.
A drugs war simply creates an illegal market and distribution networks, it corrodes the economy, it creates even more Al Capones (al-Qaeda makes millions from our stupidity), and it doesn't stop those who want to take drugs. It impacts on our health services and it encourages hypocrisy, it corrodes our entire system of government. It does not work. It corrupts.
IT WAS the metaphor from hell that started this mess.
We can blame US president Richard Nixon, who in 1971 famously declared War On Drugs, and like Vietnam, it has proved to be unwinnable.
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Perhaps it should have been compared to disease, where we don't look for total victory but rather see every person saved as a win.
If addictions were an Olympic event, Australia would medal every time. From cocaine in the 1920s, over-the-counter drugs in the 1950s, heroin in the '80s and the present designer pill push, we have been near first in the queue.
An Australian executive expat returned to Sydney recently on business and was shocked to see Friday afternoon happy hour had been replaced with the A-crowd popping pills like imported beers.
Marijuana use 'fell after decriminalisation' in WA under Gallop government
The Australian | 3rd April 2012
CANNABIS use in Western Australia fell markedly after it was decriminalised - contrary to comments by Police Minister Rob Johnson that it had grown "extensively".
Mr Johnson told reporters today that when former WA Labor premier Geoff Gallop decriminalised the smoking, possession and cultivation of small amounts of marijuana in 2004, he presided over a surge in drug use.
"We became known as the cannabis capital of Australia and we saw cannabis use grow extensively," Mr Johnson said.
"If you start decriminalising it, what you see is an increase in use."
Mr Johnson was responding to a think tank of prominent Australians that said the so-called war on drugs had been lost, and tougher laws were doing more harm than good.
However, statistics from the National Drug Strategy Household Survey show cannabis use among West Australians fell from 13.7 per cent in 2004 to 10.8 per cent in 2007.
Australian minister calls for rethink of drug laws
ABC Radio News | 3rd April 2012
Australia's Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr says the policing of 'soft' drugs is a waste of police time, and that he would support their "effective decriminalisation".
A group of eminent Australians, including former federal police chief Mick Palmer and former New South Wales Director of Public Prosecutions Nicholas Cowdery, has released a report which says the 'war on drugs' has failed.
The report concludes that Australia should consider legalising some substances.
Senator Carr, whose younger brother died of a heroin overdose, contributed to the report before entering federal politics.
He has stood by his contribution and said he did not think that other members of the Australian Government were far from his position.
Time for Australia to abandon "failed war on drugs"
The Conversation | 2nd April 2012
Australia must abandon its failed war on drugs and reopen the debate over legalising and regulating their use, according to a report to be released tomorrow.
The report, emotively titled “The prohibition of illicit drugs is killing and criminalising our children and we are letting it happen”, is the work of non-profit body Australia21 and based on a roundtable attended by former premiers and health ministers, and a former police commissioner, among other high-profile figures.
It has the support of new Foreign Minister, Bob Carr, who wrote: “An issue that worried me while I was in NSW politics was the police hitting railway stations with sniffer dogs. It was marijuana that was the focus. I did not think it was the best use of police time. People were breaking no other laws. This was victimless crime and this was seen as a new way to engage police resources. I wanted them to do things like make public transport safe and clean up Cabramatta.”
BAN on synthetic cannabis has failed to stop its sale and may have caused stronger forms of the party drug to hit the market.
Sold as Kronic, Northern Lights, Spice and Amsterdam High, the herbal-chemical blend was in effect outlawed in July when eight cannabis-like chemicals were banned by Australia's federal medicines regulator.
But it is still being sold widely in Melbourne in ''legal high'' stores, tobacconists and sex shops, as suppliers have got around the law by reformulating brands with chemicals that have a similar effect but are not on the banned list.
Victoria Police told The Sunday Age the drugs were virtually impossible to control as there was no way to know what chemicals were in them without forensic tests.
When a 41-year-old Aboriginal man's heart age in relation to his actual age was calculated at 69, the nurse attributed it directly to his unhealthy lifestyle and chronic smoking addiction.
This was a common result at the heart calculator stand at Pangula Mannamurna in Mount Gambier which hosted a number of services working together to achieve better health and life expectation equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
The prevalence of diabetes, heart disease, cholesterol problems and diseases directly related to tobacco use topple that of non-indigenous peoples in Australia which prompted the 'Close the Gap' campaign in 2006.
'Ice psychosis': how ice can cause a 'fight or flight situation'
The Sydney Morning Herald | 27th March 2012
'Ice' - a cheap and potent methamphetamine easily available on Sydney's streets - is not the most popular drug of choice for criminals but it certainly adds a violent element that can, as seen on Sunday, cause fatal consequences.
Consultant psychologist Dr Glenys Dore, Clinical Director of Northern Sydney Drug and Alcohol Service said the drug is a major problem for health officials and police when users suffer an 'ice psychosis.'
An 'ice psychosis' is when users have persecutory or paranoia delusions often accompanied by auditory and visual hallucinations, she said.
"Those who are committing crimes and who are extremely violent on methamphetamine represent a very small group of those using methamphetamine. Of those who become psychotic it's only for two or three hours but if they continue to be psychotic, only about 10 per cent are going to be very violent," she said
ALCOHOL is fast becoming the No. 1 threat facing Australian children and there is no adequate system to stop them being exposed to alcohol advertising, Australia's foremost child health expert, Fiona Stanley, says.
The former Australian of the Year will chair a new alcohol advertising review body, which health experts say is needed because the industry-based code is failing to protect children.
The Alcohol Advertising Review Board will assess complaints from the public about alcohol advertising, and will look at areas not covered by the current code such as sponsorship or advertisement placement.
"In the past 10 to 15 years we have seen a huge increase in harmful drinking among younger and younger children,'' Professor Stanley said.
ALCOHOL is fast becoming the No. 1 threat facing Australian children and there is no adequate system in place to stop them being exposed to alcohol advertising, Australia's foremost child health expert, Fiona Stanley, says.
The former Australian of the Year will chair a new alternative alcohol advertising review body, which health experts say is needed because the industry-based code is failing to protect children.
The Alcohol Advertising Review Board will assess complaints from members of the public about alcohol advertising, and will look at areas not covered by the current code, such as sponsorship or advertisement placement.
The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) has applauded today’s launch of the Alcohol Advertising Review Board, a new independent body established to police alcohol advertising in Australia.
Created in response to a an industry-based advertising code that has failed to control the alcohol industry’s aggressive marketing and advertising practices, the Board is the initiative of the McCusker Centre on Action for Alcohol and Youth and Cancer Council Western Australia, and is supported by major health groups across Australia.
To be chaired by former Australian of the Year, Professor Fiona Stanley, the Alcohol Advertising Review Board will consider and adjudicate complaints about alcohol advertising from members of the public.
FARE Chief Executive, Michael Thorn, says the current industry-based, voluntary Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code (ABAC), has proven time and again incapable of regulating the industry’s runaway marketing and advertising practices.
Richard Branson and Ian Blair debate drug decriminalisation
The Guardian | 16th March 2012
It is more than 40 years since the war on drugs was declared. Ian Blair, former commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, and Richard Branson, entrepreneur and member of the Global Commission on Drugs Policy meet – over a glass of wine – to discuss whether it's time to decriminalise. Emine Saner listens in.
Ian Blair: This is a very nuanced argument. I am in favour of experimentation to see if we can get treatment higher up the agenda of governments in dealing with drugs. Many drug addiction problems could be solved by treatment. But I fear the idea of a fully legalised world around drugs because it is an absolutely untested proposition, and the only evidence we have is small experiments in small countries. The idea that somewhere like the UK or the US goes into an experiment with unforeseeable consequences strikes me as horrific.
Richard Branson: I went into the Drugs Commission with a fairly open mind. We examined the war on drugs over the last 40 years and came to the conclusion it has failed. We then looked at countries that are taking a different approach on the war on drugs. In Portugal they said we're not going to legalise, but we're going to decriminalise all drugs – no one is going to go to prison for possession of drugs. We will move drugs from the home office to the health department. The government will use the money that would otherwise have been spent on putting people in prison to help them – which is about three-quarters cheaper. Portugal has seen a big reduction in heroin use, and in drug-related break-ins, and you can understand logically why.
Alcohol Advertising Review Board launched by Fiona Stanley to stop 'free run' of booze ads
The Daily Telegraph | 16th March 2012
FORMER Australian of the Year Fiona Stanley and other leading health campaigners are today launching a new national body to review alcohol advertising in Australia.
The new Alcohol Advertising Review Board hopes to counter what it claims is out-of-control advertising and marketing of alcohol, which is seeing increasing levels of alcohol-related harm.
It will consider and adjudicate complaints from the community about alcohol advertising, providing "an independent alternative to Australia’s current inadequate and ineffective advertising self-regulation system".
A NEW national health body has been established to "name and shame" irresponsible alcohol advertising.
Chaired by former Australian of the Year and children's health advocate Fiona Stanley, the independent Alcohol Advertising Review Board was launched in Perth today, promising to hold advertisers to account for what it says is a growing problem of alcohol abuse across the nation.
The independent body is made up of health professionals and related groups, and supported by the McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth (MCAAY) and Cancer Council Western Australia.
MCAAY director Mike Daube said it would counter the industry-based Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code, which he claimed wasn't doing enough to curb excessive drinking and exposure to children.
Acid, pot, Es and booze: Youth risking health with drug cocktails
Brisbane Times | 14th March 2012
Partygoers have again been warned of the dangers of combining multiple drugs and alcohol after a recent spate of drug overdoses involving young people in Brisbane.
In the latest incident, two teenagers and a man in his late 20s were hospitalised after taking a cocktail of illicit drugs at a party in an inner-Brisbane suburb early Sunday.
They were among a group of around 10 attending a party in Blamey Street, Kelvin Grove who reportedly suffering physical reactions and hallucinations after consuming a combination of drugs including nitrous oxide, acid, ecstasy, marijuana and alcohol.
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Three were taken to the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, one of them in a critical condition after reportedly falling unconscious.
Search for genetic clues to cruel lottery of drink-induced cirrhosis
The Sydney Morning Herald | 12th March 2012
SCIENTISTS in Sydney will investigate why some heavy drinkers are more likely than others to suffer the potentially fatal long-term effects of alcohol. It will be a world-first study, as concern increases about the failure of public health campaigns to curb drinking rates.
Up to 5000 people with alcohol-induced cirrhosis of the liver will be tested to try to identify genetic triggers of the disease. The $2.5 million international study is the largest undertaken into the deadly condition.
A professor of addiction medicine at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Paul Haber, said funding for cirrhosis research was ''relatively neglected''. It is hoped the study will also show why some people develop the disease despite relatively moderate alcohol consumption, Professor Haber said.
Grasp of safe alcohol limits proves to be a long shot
The Sydney Morning Herlad | 06th March 2012
ONLY FIVE per cent of Australians are able to identify safe drinking levels and young people particularly think they can drink far more than is good for them, a national survey shows.
The Centre for Alcohol Policy Research has found that apart from the 95 per cent of people unable to say what are safe drinking levels, up to 50 per cent could not even provide an estimate of hazard-free alcohol intake.
The centre's study, based on analysis of results from surveys undertaken over the past five years, reflect a failure to promote safe drinking guidelines but may also stem from confusion between the guidelines and drink-driving limits, the survey researcher, Michael Livingston, said.
Australians don't know what's safe level of alcohol consumption
The Telegraph | 06th March 2012
FEW Australians know what a safe level of alcohol consumption is, research shows.
A Centre for Alcohol Policy Research report, released today, found 95 per cent of people surveyed were unable to correctly identify the Australian guidelines for safe drinking levels.
Between 30 and 50 per cent were unable to even provide an estimate.
Researcher Michael Livingston, from the centre, said the misconceptions were particularly pronounced among young people, men and heavy drinkers.
"Young people are significantly overestimating the number of standard drinks to consume per occasion to reduce the risk of short-term harms, with young men aged 14-19 years estimating 8.8 drinks while their female counterparts estimated 6.5 drinks," Mr Livingston said.
TEENAGERS who smoke, drink alcohol and eat junk food are significantly more likely to be unhappy than their clean- living counterparts, a study has found.
About 5,000 children were questioned on their appearance, family, friends, school and life as a whole, and had their happiness levels rated.
Researchers discovered that those who never drank alcohol were between four and six times more likely to have higher levels of happiness than those who did, while those who shunned cigarettes were about five times more likely to have high happiness scores than young smokers.
The authors of the study, based at the Institute for Social and Economic Research at Essex University, used data from Understanding Society, a long-term study of 40,000 UK households, to analyse the home life and health-related behaviour of about 5,000 ten to 15-year-olds.
Three years on - Alcohol Guidelines invisible and unknown
Foundation of Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) - 03rd March 2012
Australia's Alcohol Guidelines turn today but there's little reason to celebrate. New research by the Centre for Alcohok Policy Research (CAPR) shows that 95 per cent of people unable to correctly identify safe drinking levels.
The research has been released ahead of a meeting of health experts in Melbourne today which will explore the role of the National Health and Medical Research Council's (NHMRC): Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol.
The study, Perception of the low-risk drinking levels among Australians during a period of chnage in the official drinking guidelines, found fewer than five per cent of people were able to correctly identify safe drinking levels to avoid short and long-term harms, and between 30 and 50 per cent of respondents couldn't even provide estimates.
Health experts are alarmed by school and university students routinely going on alcohol blinders, as new figures show more than 1000 children were treated at Perth hospital emergency departments last year for alcohol or drug use.
Researchers and doctors say teenagers are drinking more and at younger ages, putting them on a path of regular binge drinking by the time they start work or university.
They were also exposed to more blatant marketing such as Jim Beam on Campus, a Facebook-based campaign which invited students to nominate their university to win prizes such as bar credit.
Call to lift tax on cider to rein in alcohol abuse
Sydney Morning Herlad | 03rd March 2012
ALCOHOL producers are targeting young drinkers with sweet ciders that attract a fraction of the tax levied on notorious alcopops, health campaigners say.
The legal loophole, which sees ciders taxed in the same way as wines, has underpinned an explosion in the varieties of fruit-based drinks available, the chief executive of the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education, Michael Thorn, said.
Companies were ''definitely looking to replace spirit-based [pre-mixed drinks]'' after the introduction of a tax in 2008 led to a sharp fall in their sales, Mr Thorn said, and had created ''very deliberate campaigns'' aimed at promoting ciders to youths
A deterioration of working memory is observed in people who consume drugs containing cannabinoid compounds found in cannabis leaves and buds. A team led by Giovanni Marsicano (Inserm Research Unit 862) in collaboration with a team led by Xia Zhang, has recently identified the mechanism by which these substances affect working memory. These researchers have demonstrated for the first time that the adverse effect of cannabinoids on working memory is exerted via receptors located in the glial cells (brain cells present in large numbers and scarcely studied). This effect is associated with a decrease in neural connections in the hippocampus, the region of the brain that coordinates working memory processes. These results were published in Cell on 2 March 2012.
Working memory is used perform common cognitive operations (thinking, reading, writing, calculating, etc.) on information stored temporarily (for periods ranging from a few seconds to a few minutes). This allows for the integration audio, visual and spatial information. One of the major effects of intoxication with cannabinoids is the alteration of working memory, as observed in both humans and animals. Cannabis disturbs this function, thus preventing the consumer from performing common daily tasks. Cannabinoid receptors are expressed in the glial cells of the hippocampus, a cerebral structure essential for memory modulation. The cellular mechanisms responsible for the adverse effects of cannabis on this memorization process were previously unknown.
First and only study on harmful effects of infants prenatally exposed to ecstasy
EurekAlert | 28th February 2012
International Case Western Reserve-led study published in Neurotoxicology and Teratology
A study led by Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, in collaboration with the University of East London UK, and Swansea University UK, is the first to show the effects of the drug ecstasy on fetal and infant development.
Ecstasy is a stimulant and hallucinogen, and is one of the most widely used illegal drugs among young people, with a range of damaging effects. It is known scientifically as 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine or MDMA. This international prospective study, published in the Feb. 28 issue of Neurotoxicology and Teratology, shows that use of ecstasy among pregnant women affects the chemical signaling that determines a baby's gender, and, contributes to developmental delays among infants.
Drug Action Week 2012 Event Registrations are rolling In
ADCA Media Release | 27th February 2012
The national Drug Action Week (DAW) 2012 is shaping up to be another highly successful seven days of awareness raising and celebratory activities on the alcohol and other drugs (AOD) sector calendar.
The national launch has been locked in for Wednesday, 13 June 2012, at Parliament House in Canberra, and some 58 organisations have already registered events to coincide with DAW 2012 from Sunday, 17 June through to Saturday, 23 June.
“This early response is very encouraging, and follows on from the record 800 registrations recorded for DAW 2011,” the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Alcohol and other Drugs Council of Australia (ADCA), Mr David Templeman said.
Smoke-free outdoor laws herald better community health
The Conversation | 22nd February 2012
The NSW government will introduce a smoke-free outdoors law this year, making it the sixth state or territory to have some variation of this kind of legislation. The announcement shows that community health and common sense can override the vested interests and powerful lobbying of Big Tobacco.
While New South Wales has been late in introducing these laws compared with other states, the legislation will be one of the most comprehensive.
NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner said the legislation – covering smoke-free children’s playgrounds, sporting fields when sports are being played, and covered bus shelters and taxi ranks – will be introduced in the spring session of parliament. The bans for smoking in commercial outdoor dining areas will come into effect in 2015.
Stars who knock back whisky, wine or beer in a movie are an invisible but potent force in prompting youngsters to experiment with alcohol ...
Major exposure to scenes of alcohol consumption in movies is a bigger risk for teen drinking than having parents who drink or if booze is easily available at home, the study says, which was published on Tuesday.
Unprecedented in its scope, the probe entailed a confidential telephone survey of more than 6,500 randomly-selected Americans aged 10 to 14 years, who were then interviewed three more times over the next two years.
The youngsters were surveyed on what big movies they had seen, whether they drank alcohol or owned merchandise with a liquor brand on it, and were also asked questions about their personality, school and home life.
Major exposure to scenes of alcohol consumption in movies is a bigger risk for teen drinking than having parents who drink or if booze is easily available at home, the study published today said.
Unprecedented in its scope, the probe entailed a confidential telephone survey of more than 6500 randomly selected Americans aged 10 to 14 years, who were then interviewed three more times over the next two years.
The youngsters were surveyed on what big movies they had seen, whether they drank alcohol or owned merchandise with a liquor brand on it, and were also asked questions about their personality, school and home life.
The 50-movie list used in the interview was drawn randomly from 500 current or recent box-office hits plus another 32 films that had grossed at least $US15 million when the first survey was carried out.
A NSW ban on smoking in outdoor eating areas is being hailed as an historic step, but supporters want to know why it will be delayed until 2015.
NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner on Tuesday announced a suite of bans, including new legislation which would immediately stop smoking in playgrounds, public sports grounds, swimming pools, transport stops and entrances to public buildings.
But the 2015 ban on smoking in outdoor dining areas attracted the most attention.
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"People don't like putting food in their mouths with smoke in the air, and this is something we are acknowledging," Jillian Skinner said.
AUSSIE women have been criticised as incredibly ignorant about the danger of drinking alcohol during pregnancy.
Liberal MP for Murray Sharman Stone said yesterday it was a tragedy many women were still not fully aware of the dangers of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, even though women now drank as "hard and long as the boys".
"Every survey conducted in Australia of women's knowledge about alcohol consumption during pregnancy shows a shocking majority have not been informed," Dr Stone said.
The National Health and Medical Research Council said there was no safe level of drinking during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
Being exposed to cigarette smoke as a baby or foetus could reduce a female's fertility, new Australian research has found.
The three-year study examined the effect that three chemicals found in cigarettes had on ovarian development and egg fertilisation.
It found females who were exposed to the toxins through cigarette smoke during the early stages of life could experience a reduction in the quality and number of their eggs, Professor Eileen McLaughlin from the University of Newcastle said.
Push for national strategy for foetal alcohol disorder
Nursing Review Online | 14th February 2012
A parliamentary inquiry is generating calls for FASD to be recognised as a disability.
Parents, foster carers, nurses and other health workers who have experience with foetal alcohol spectrum disorders have been urged to tell their story to federal parliament.
A parliamentary committee is investigating the incidence and prevention of foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) in Australia.
"FASD is a hidden epidemic happening right now across Australia," committee chairman Graham Perrett told parliament this week.
"It occurs in all our communities, regardless of socioeconomic or ethnic background."
Some people with FASD had tell-tale facial features but many more sufferers carried no physical sign of their intellectual impairment which included learning difficulties, low IQ, behavioural and socialising problems, organ damage, mental health issues, poor judgment and an inability to understand consequences or the difference between right and wrong.
Department of Health and Aging | 10th February 2012
The Gillard Government is continuing its fight against youth binge drinking armed with $10 million to fund 26 community level projects across Australia.
The projects will receive funding of up to $500,000 each in the third round of grants under the Community Level Initiative—part of the Labor Government’s National Binge Drinking Strategy to help combat risky drinking.
Minister for Mental Health and Ageing Mark Butler today joined Federal MP for Kingston, Amanda Rishworth and youth workers at Re-Engage Youth Services in Christies Beach, South Australia, to announce the funding recipients.
“Fighting risky drinking, particularly among young people, remains a priority for the Government,” Mr Butler said.
“With around one in six young people aged 14 or older putting themselves at risk of alcohol-related injury from a single drinking occasion at least once a week, it is obvious that we must find new ways of reducing such harmful behaviour.
“Binge drinking is a community-wide problem and the solution lies in community-supported, grassroots projects, and especially those which encourage young people to take more responsibility for their own actions.
Smoking marijuana a couple of hours before you drive almost doubles your chances of having a serious car crash, according to Canadian researchers.
The study, led by Associate Professor Mark Asbridge from Dalhousie University, is the first to review data about drivers who had been treated for serious injuries or died in car accidents.
"To our knowledge this meta-analysis is the first to examine the association between acute cannabis use and the risk of motor vehicle collisions in real life," the researchers wrote in the latest issue of the British Medical Journal.
The Federal Government is proposing new measures to crack down on alcohol abuse in central Australia, with harsher penalties for grog runners one of the features of the planned laws. The Government is also looking at handing greater power to town camps and remote communities to draft their own alcohol restrictions. Hoteliers and social welfare advocates say the measures will do little to stop the damaging effects of alcohol.
Today’s teenagers are drinking at a younger age and at risky levels. The average Australian starts drinking alcohol at 15.5 years; and more than a quarter of our 14-19 year olds are putting themselves at risk of alcohol-related harm at least once a month.
From when your child turns 12 years old until they reach about 24 years their brain is forming all the parts needed for learning, memory, planning, emotional stability, and thinking. Alcohol can disrupt this.
Your child trusts you and relies on you for information and advice. Research shows that they believe that you should teach them about alcohol.
Science Network Western Australia | 17th January 2012
A RECENT study has revealed a dramatic increase in the number of calls to a poisons hotline relating to caffeine toxicity from energy drink consumption.
And according to the research published in Medical Journal of Australia, the trend is largely among teenagers.
A study, by NSW Poisons Information Centre medical director Dr Naren Gunja and coauthor Jared Brown, was conducted over a seven year period and found that callers reported 297 exposures to energy drinks, with the annual trend increasing from 12 in 2004 to 65 in 2010.
HEALTH professionals are calling for warning labels on caffeinated energy drinks following a study that found a sharp rise in the number of people who report heart problems, tremors and chest pains after drinking the beverages, particularly teenagers.
Close to 300 calls were made to NSW's poisons centre regarding adverse reactions to energy drinks between January 2004 and the end of 2010, with more than a third of people attending hospital.
Hallucinations, heart attacks 'brought on by energy drinks'
The Australian | 16th January 2012
CAFFEINE-LOADED energy drinks are responsible for an ever-increasing number of hospital visits and calls to poison hotlines, and are blamed for a variety of serious symptoms such as hallucinations, seizures and even heart attacks.
A new analysis of calls to the country's biggest poisons helpline, the NSW Poisons Information Centre, since 2004 found the number of calls related to energy drinks rose from 12 in 2004 to 65 in 2010, with at least 128 people requiring emergency department treatment over the seven years.
Although the most common symptoms were heart palpitations, agitation, tremor and upset stomachs, more than 20 people had signs of more serious poisoning, including hallucinations, seizures and interrupted blood flow to the heart.
Energy drinks regulations go far enough already, says industry
The Shout | 16th January 2012
The Australian Beverages Council, representing the entire Australian energy drink industry, has today rejected calls from Doctors for greater regulations of energy drinks.
The Australian Medical Association is calling for age restrictions on the drinks, claiming there has been a rise in the number of teenagers becoming ill from over-consumption.
But Australian Beverages Council CEO Geoff Parker, said energy drinks in Australia are already the most heavily regulated of all world markets.
"Personal responsibility needs to be considered and trying to regulate against a lack of common sense or over-consumption of a perfectly safe product by 0.00001% of the population isn't a position supported by the industry," he said.
SYDNEY (AFP) - Researchers in Australia called for health warnings on caffeine-loaded energy drinks following a spike in the number of people reporting medical problems after drinking them.
Health professionals from the University of Sydney's Medical School and the New South Wales Poisons Information Centre said reports of adverse reactions to drinks like Red Bull and V jumped from just 12 in 2004 to 65 in 2010.
SMOKERS have nicotine patches and heroin addicts have methadone but cannabis users have little choice except to go cold turkey if they want to kick the habit.
But researchers at the University of New South Wales hope a cannabis-based mouth spray prescribed to multiple sclerosis sufferers and not available in Australia could be used to help people quit marijuana.
There are no products specifically aimed at easing people off cannabis, the only option being a cocktail of prescribed drugs used to counteract withdrawal symptoms.
DANGEROUS new party drugs that leave users hallucinating and paranoid can be bought online.
New concoctions of illicit substances are sweeping the web, easily sold through eBay-style auction sites under code names or on "hidden" black-market websites where the identity and location of the buyer is obscured and the underground sales can't be tracked.
Police say new drugs are continually emerging, as their makers try to stay one step ahead of the law by formulating synthetic alternatives that are yet to be black-listed, and turning to the internet as their marketplace.
Healthy image up in smoke as nation lives the high life
The Sydney Morning Herald | 6th January 2012
AUSTRALIA and New Zealand have a proud history of co-operation, but now it seems the nations have achieved a more dubious honour: the world's biggest pot-heads.
Together the countries have higher levels of marijuana and amphetamine use than any other region in the world, according to the findings from a series of papers to be published today in the medical journal The Lancet examining global drug use and law enforcement.
In 2009 in Oceania, for which only data from Australia and New Zealand was available, 10 to 15 per cent of people had used marijuana in the past year, compared to 1.2 to 2.5 per cent in Asia, the region with the lowest use. Between 2 and 2.8 per cent used amphetamines such as speed, compared with 0.2 to 1.4 per cent in Asia.