Binge drinking young Aussies lead world in substance harms

February 25, 2016

binge drinkingYoung Australians are falling prey to the adverse effects of binge drinking and illicit drugs more than anywhere else in the world, a Lancet Psychiatry study shows.

The major global review of the nature and patterns of substance abuse shows that it accounts for 22% of the total health harms affecting 20-24 year-olds in the Australasian region.

Binge drinking makes up the largest burden among adolescents, with males most affected, according to the study, led by professors Louisa Degenhardt and Wayne Hall of the University of Queensland.

They report young men in the region suffer more harms from illicit drug use than anywhere else on the planet. The results show almost 11% are adversely affected compared with 7.5% in Western Europe and 9% in North America.

This highlights the need for more research and better prevention and intervention, the researchers say.

Risk factors which affect the likelihood of use include:

  • Availability;
  • Fixed risk markers such as being male; parental and sibling use and genetics;
  • Individual personality traits such novelty and sensation seeking, and oppositional and conduct disorder in childhood; and
  • Social and family context such as poor school performance, parenting style and poor quality parent child relationships.

However, professors Degenhardt and Hall warn that independent of these risk factors “association with antisocial and drug using peers” is the strongest predictor of adolescent use.

They point to a range of studies that suggest substance use during adolescence can have a greater neuropsychological effect than substance use later in life.

Binge drinking and illicit drugs taking at this age triples the risk, they say.

The review, which is presented as a three-part series, shows that policy interventions such as taxation, controls on minimum age and availability are effective prevention and harm reduction measures for alcohol use. Click here to view the article in full.

The Australian and New Zealand Addiction Conference 2016, themed Alcohol – Other Drugs – Behavioural Addictions, Prevention, Treatment and Recovery will be held on the Gold Coast 19 – 20 May 2016. To register for the conference CLICK HERE.

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