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SBS 27/2/18

Nearly 6000 Australians are dying from alcohol-related diseases each year. (AAP)

Nearly 6000 Australians died as a result of a disease linked to alcohol in 2015, the National Drug Research Institute has found.

Alcohol-related diseases are being blamed for causing the deaths of nearly 6000 Australians each year.

A study by the National Drug Research Institute at Western Australia's Curtin University has found an estimated 5,785 people aged over 15 died from alcohol-attributable causes in 2015.

Just over a third died from alcohol-attributed cancer, with injuries, cardiovascular disease and digestive diseases linked to 17 per cent of deaths.

"This research shows that in Australia, one person dies every 90 minutes on average, and someone ends up in our hospitals every three-and-a-half minutes, because of preventable conditions caused by alcohol," NDRI alcohol policy team leader Professor Tanya Chikritzh said.

Breast cancer and liver disease were the main causes of death for women, while most men died from liver disease and bowel cancer.

As well as the 2000 people who died from alcohol-attributable cancer, another 13,000 were hospitalised with cancers linked to low or moderate drinking levels.

Terry Slevin, education and research director at Cancer Council WA, said many people would be shocked to learn that more than one third of alcohol-related deaths were linked to cancer.

"We rarely see people with a cancer diagnosis link their drinking to the disease," he said.

"We have a long way to go to embed the notion that drinking alcohol genuinely increases risk of cancer and death."

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Parents who give their children alcohol increase the risk that they will binge drink in their teenage years, an Australian study has found.

There is no evidence to support the view that parents who give their children alcohol are reducing the risk of binge drinking or alcohol-related harms in their teenage years, found the study involving just under 2000 adolescents between 12 and 18 years old.

There is no evidence to support the view that parents who give their children alcohol are reducing the risk of binge drinking or alcohol-related harms in their teenage years.  

Teenagers whose parents allow them to drink are twice as likely to access alcohol through other sources and engage in binge drinking, the researchers reported on Friday in Lancet Public Health.

Teenagers given alcohol by their parents were 95 per cent more likely to binge drink – more than four standard drinks in one sitting – in the future than those who had found another way to score a drink.

"This reinforces the fact that alcohol consumption leads to harm, no matter how it is supplied," said lead author Professor Richard Mattick, a drug and alcohol dependency and behaviour expert at UNSW. "We advise that parents should avoid supplying alcohol to their teenagers if they wish to reduce their risk of alcohol-related harms."

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Today's teenagers are turning their backs on Australia's excessive drinking culture, and shunning other drugs, in a change that has been dubbed a modern "youth revolution".

A study involving more than 41,000 Australian adolescents (average age 13.5) has observed a staggering drop in rates of teen alcohol consumption and smoking since 1999

At the turn of the century, almost 70 per cent of surveyed teenagers had already drunk alcohol. By 2015, that figure that dropped to 45 per cent, meaning high school students abstaining from alcohol are now in the majority.

An author of the study, Professor John Toumbourou​, said while the adult population were also showing signs of moderating their alcohol consumption, it did not compare to the sharp trend within the secondary school population.

"They are making changes that are much more dramatic to other age groups," said Professor Toumbourou, chair in health psychology at Deakin University.

"It's a new, youth-led revolution."

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If you had told me a few years ago that my husband and I would completely cut alcohol out of our life, I would’ve laughed you off sarcastically as we raised our wine glasses for yet another clink and sip and then mocked that ridiculous comment. I mean, come on, who doesn’t drink in today’s society? Apart from certain religious groups, pregnant women or recovering alcoholics.

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Key findings 

  • Change in alcohol consumption per capita was significantly and positively associated with change in both male and female head and neck cancer mortality, particularly among males and females aged 50 and above. 
  • Change in alcohol consumption per capita was significantly and positively associated with change in male liver cancer mortality, particularly among males aged 50-69. 
  • The results suggest that one litre decreases in annual alcohol consumption per capita were associated with reductions of 11.6 per cent in male and 7.3 per cent in female head and neck cancer mortality across a 20-year period. 
  • The results also suggest that one litre decreases in annual alcohol consumption per capita were associated with a reduction of male liver cancer mortality of 15.0 per cent across a 20-year period. 
  • In total, it is estimated from the analysis that about 6.5 per cent of male and 4.1 per cent of female head and neck cancer deaths were related to alcohol consumption in Australia between 1968 and 2011.
  • Alcohol consumption was estimated to be responsible for 8.4 per cent of male liver cancer deaths in Australia in the last 50 years

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