One in 10 New Zealanders could now be considered “alcoholic” according to new diagnostic criteria – that is over 400’000 people, with a drinking problem.
The majority of those with a drinking problem are unlikely to recognise it because the issue is so common. Take the alcohol use disorder test.
Alcohol use disorder combines two previously separate labels, “alcohol abuse” and “alcohol dependence” – and rates the disorder as mild, moderate or severe.
There are 11 criteria for a diagnosis and apparently you only need to meet just two of them to qualify for the diagnosis.
There are over 800,000 heavy drinkers in New Zealand [based on MOH figures] and it could be much higher.
According to Professor Doug Sellman from the National Addiction Centre at the University of Otago, two thirds of alcohol abusers are unlikely to recognise they had a problem.
“People with alcohol problems in New Zealand are no different to people in other countries with an alcohol problem where those countries have a strongly ingrained and normalised heavy drinking culture,” says Sellman.
Issues surrounding alcohol availability in supermarkets, the marketing of alcohol and the relationship between sport and alcohol also contributed to heavy drinking being considered by most of the population as “harmless, normal and glamorous” suggests Sellman.
Vanessa Caldwell, the co-chair of the National Committee of Addiction, says the high prevalence of drinking in New Zealand, in particular the “binge-drinking”, is also a factor in recognition. “When everyone’s doing it it’s hard to know that you’ve got a problem,” she said.
Ross Bell from the Drug Foundation said while there was a constant moral panic about drugs like methamphetamine or “legal highs”, alcohol has always been New Zealand’s biggest problem.
“Because many of us are drinkers we don’t like to acknowledge it’s a problematic thing. We always see it as a moral or a personal failing . . . and that’s why there’s a stigma,” he said. And that stigma was a huge barrier to people seeking help.
Take the test – Am I an alcoholic or do I have an alcohol use disorder?
Do you suffer from alcohol use disorder? – how many of these criteria do you meet?
1. Taking alcohol in larger amounts or for longer than you meant to
2. Wanting to cut down or stop drinking but not managing to
3. Spending a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from alcohol
4. Cravings and urges for alcohol
5. Not managing to do what you should at work, home or school, because of alcohol
6. Continuing to drink even when it causes problems in relationships
7. Giving up important social, occupational or recreational activities because of alcohol
8. Using alcohol again and again, even when it puts you in danger
9. Continuing to drink even when the you know you have a physical or psychological problem that could have been caused or made worse by alcohol
10. Needing more alcohol to get the effect you want (tolerance)
11. Development of withdrawal symptoms, which can be relieved by taking more alcohol
Your result …
Mild: two or three symptoms
Moderate: four or five symptoms
Severe: six or more symptoms
If you believe you have a problem with alcohol or you are looking to seek help with your alcohol addiction or alcohol use disorder please use one of the helpful private or government funded resources and help lines below;
Alcohol Drug Helpline – 0800 787 797
Do I have a problem? https://www.alcoholdrughelp.org.nz/do-i-have-a-problem/
Test your drinking: https://www.alcoholdrughelp.org.nz/test-your-drinking/
Test your drug taking: https://www.alcoholdrughelp.org.nz/test-your-drug-taking/
Alcoholics Anonymous: http://www.aa.org.nz/
HPA – Easing up on the drink: http://www.alcohol.org.nz/alcohol-you/easing-drink