Monday, 12 May 2008

Conference told drinking needs to be 'denormalised'

A conference in Brisbane has been told that society needs to change the way it thinks about alcohol before there will be a reduction in binge drinking.

The Alcohol and Drug Foundation organised the conference to discuss ways to tackle the problem, with organisations and researchers from across the country attending the event.

Victoria's Professor Margaret Hamilton says drinking needs to be "denormalised".

"Its not really all that acceptable to have people who are out of control, vomiting, mess, aggressive, difficult to manage, making a hell of a mess," Ms Hamilton said.

"I think we've got to get that kind of thinking happening. That'll take a long time."


One in three pregnant women drink: study

More than one third of pregnant women drink despite most knowing the harmful effects alcohol can have on unborn children, a study has found. A paper, to be presented at the Royal Australasian College of Physicians annual congress in Adelaide on Tuesday, outlines the results of a telephone survey of 1,103 Australian women aged between 18 and 45.

Thirty-four per cent of the women surveyed consumed alcohol during their last pregnancy and 32 per cent said they would drink if planning, and during, a future pregnancy. Some 93 per cent of survey respondents knew alcohol could affect unborn children and 81 per cent agreed pregnant women should not drink alcohol.

Pediatrician Elizabeth Elliott says alcohol consumption early in pregnancy puts the unborn child at risk of birth defects, while consumption later can impact on the developing brain. "The message, really, for women should be that no safe level has been established, and that large amounts of alcohol frequently, and particularly early in the pregnancy, is likely to cause the worst outcomes," Professor Elizabeth Elliott said."Not drinking in pregnancy is the safest option and we particularly advise women not to become intoxicated."

The alcohol level in the mother's blood is the same as in her foetus. The risks of alcohol consumption during pregnancy are difficult to predict for each individual because factors such as a woman's weight, age and general health, come into play. About half of pregnancies are unplanned so inevitably many women have consumed alcohol before learning they are pregnant, Prof Elliott said. "What we do is reassure women that if they've drunk alcohol at low levels then it's likely that they've done no damage to their baby," she said.

Prof Elliott says Australian attitudes to alcohol are very tolerant. "So, in contrast to somewhere like the (United) States where if you're a pregnant woman in a pub drinking you might well have people coming up to you and telling you to stop drinking," she said. "That doesn't happen here as much."

There have been increasing levels of drinking by young women, she said. Prof Elliott says she hopes revised guidelines on safe drinking, to be issued by the National Health and Medical Research Council later this year, will include messages to women about the dangers of drinking during pregnancy. She said 95 per cent of women surveyed wanted doctors to ask them about alcohol consumption in pregnancy and to advise them of the potential harm to their foetus. "The community is ready for a tougher message on alcohol," she said. "We have got to not only give them (women) the knowledge but we have got to somehow change their attitudes."

Driver straps in beer, leaves kid loose

Police in Alice Springs say they were appalled to find a driver put a seatbelt around a carton of beer - but left a five-year-old child unrestrained.Officers stopped the unregistered sedan on the Ross Highway south of Alice Springs on the weekend. They found the child sitting in the back seat without a seatbelt, but the driver had put a belt around a slab of beer.

Alcohol boosts cancer risks: experts
A new study has found that drinking just two standard alcoholic drinks a day significantly increases the risks of developing breast, bowel, throat and mouth cancer.

Balmain hotels fill as young mourn pub mates
Many of those involved in the accident were from Balmain. Friends gathered, embraced and cried openly on Darling Street, and soon after were intoxicated with alcohol as well as grief. Balmain bar staff described the incident as a pub staff night gone wrong.

Calls for binge warnings on alcohol packaging
The Public Health Association (PHA) says warnings about the dangers of binge drinking should be pasted on all forms of packaged alcoholic drinks.

Support for booze public education

A SURVEY of 1000 Australians found more than three-quarters of those questioned about attitudes to drinking said there was not enough public education about the dangers of alcohol, despite the Rudd Government's promise of a multimillion-dollar binge-drinking strategy.

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