Drinking regularly, even at low levels, increases your risk of long-term health harm.
For New Zealand women, breast cancer is the leading cause of alcohol-attributable death. In relation to cancer, there is no safe level of alcohol consumption.
One in every 25 deaths from cancer in New Zealand are due to alcohol use (for persons <80 years). Of these, breast cancer is the most common.
Alcohol use is also linked with other long-term health conditions - liver cirrhosis, ischaemic stroke and cardiac arrhythmias.
All New Zealanders need to know the risks from drinking - it is not just hazardous or binge drinking that causes harm.
Having important conversations about alcohol use
It is important that conversations about alcohol use become a normal part of our visits to the GP, hospital, social worker, Police, children's health services, etc.
In New Zealand, many of our social and health services are learning how to have these challenging conversations.
Ideally, we want everyone to talk to each other about their alcohol use. This will start to create a discussion in our society about our drinking.
Identifying high-risk drinking / screening and offering help
Research shows that the following steps taken by a health professional can be effective to reduce alcohol use among hazardous and risky drinkers .
- Screening – screening to determine the level of hazardous drinking for an individual
- Brief Intervention – in 1-2 conversations, offering information or advice to increase a hazardous drinker’s motivation to avoid drinking and/or equip them with skills to reduce their alcohol use.
- Referral to Treatment – people who are dependent on alcohol will be referred to trained clinicians or specialist treatment facilities for treatment. This often involves a level of care outside the scope of brief services.
This pathway is commonly referred to as SBIRT or can also be known as ABC (Ask – Brief Intervention – Counselling).
The increased use of this process will mean that a greater number of people will benefit from earlier identification of their problems . It will assist drinkers in understanding that their alcohol use is likely to cause them harm.
Given so many risky drinkers do not question their drinking or access help, this process will enable everyone to access the support that they need to reduce their drinking.
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