Alcohol-related hospital visits rocket, with young women the worst
DRUNKEN female party animals are inundating NSW hospital emergency departments in record numbers.
NSW Health has released new figures which show an overall 59 per cent increase in alcohol-related emergency department cases from 2000 to 2007.
The biggest increase in hospital visits was among young women - the 18- to 24-year-old group of females with a thirst for grog to match their male rivals - whose numbers increased by 200 per cent.
The numbers were drawn from a sample of NSW hospital emergency departments with the number of females increasing from 412 to 1233 patients a year.
Alcohol-related illnesses and injuries are taking a huge toll on the NSW health system.
Yesterday NSW Health Minister John Della Bosca said he was so concerned about the level of these hospitalisations - particularly among young people - he would use the health ministers' round-table meeting in November to call for a ban on alcohol advertising.
Mr Della Bosca said the time had come to address the issue, with more than 40,000 drinkers being admitted to NSW hospitals each year.
Excessive alcohol consumption is associated with cirrhosis of the liver, mental illness, several types of cancer, pancreatitis, fetal growth retardation, aggressive behaviour, family disruption and accidents.
He said all options should be considered, including warning labels on alcohol, no alcohol ads to be screened on television before 9pm or a complete advertising ban.
"Binge drinking is caused by a number of factors but advertising does not help," Mr Della Bosca said. "The power of persuasion of alcohol advertising is the most sophisticated and seductive I have seen. As a student of the art of persuasion for electioneering, the alcohol industry is almost unbeatable."
Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon yesterday said the alcohol-related hospitalisation figures were a cause for concern. She did not rule out toughening advertising laws, saying: "We need to have a comprehensive response to tackle binge drinking in Australia."
A $1.5 million trial of specialist nurses in six hospital emergency departments to deal with drunk or drugged patients is being rolled out by the Rees Government. The nurses will work at the Campbelltown, Liverpool, Royal Prince Alfred, Concord and John Hunter hospitals and The Children's Hospital at Westmead to deal with emergency department patients suffering behavioural disturbances due to drug or alcohol use.
"The hospitals have been chosen because they have access to psychiatric emergency care centres and in-patient detoxification units," Mr Della Bosca said. "This will alleviate the pressure on emergency department staff who experience an increase in alcohol and drug-affected patients.
"At the request of Council of Australian Governments, the Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy also has agreed to progress the Federal Government's $53.5 million National Binge Drinking Strategy, including community level initiatives.
"This national approach aims to reduce the incidence of alcohol-related violence and the impact of alcohol abuse on individuals, the community and the health system.
"There was also agreement to assess late-night lockouts for licensed premises based on analysis across the nation of existing and trial lockouts to recommend a preferred framework."
Mr Della Bosca's comments came as police investigated a brawl near a Parramatta hotel yesterday.
An 18-year-old man was struck in the head with a beer bottle during the incident, about 12.40am in Horwood Place. He underwent surgery at Westmead Hospital.
Social commentator Neer Korn said trying to change young Australians' love of binge drinking would require more than changing taxes for alco-pops.
Mr Korn, director of Heartbeat Trends, said the number of young people visiting hospitals for alcohol-related problems came as no surprise.
"We have been tracking 18- to 24-year-olds for at least a decade, talking with them three to four times a year, and we have increasingly seen them engage with alcohol," Mr Korn said. "They want to have a great life with extreme experiences. They have this philosophy of compensation where they beat up their body to the nth degree on a binge, but then take a vitamin pill, go for a swim or do yoga the next day to make up for the punishment. They view bingeing as being functional. Someone who drinks every day in the morning or lies in the gutter is dysfunctional in their minds."
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