Australia: Take-Away Alcohol Fuels Hospital Visits
The Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM) reports emergency department (ED) data from Victoria, Australia show that take-away alcohol increasingly fuels hospital visits.
The findings come from St. Vincent’s Hospital and Monash Health hospitals (Clayton, Casey and Dandenong) as part of the Driving Change Project in Australia. Adults who present to the ED were asked whether they consumed alcohol before their attendance, where they bought the alcohol, and the location of the last alcohol consumption.
- Figures from St. Vincent’s Hospital, obtained between September and November last year, show that one in five patients (20%) attending the ED who had reported consuming alcohol in the preceding 12 hours had purchased their alcohol from packaged liquor outlets such as bottle shops.
- At Monash Health hospitals, data obtained during July and September last year show more than half of patients (55%) attending the ED who reported consuming alcohol in the preceding 12 hours had purchased their alcohol from packaged liquor outlets.
Researchers say the actual figures are probably higher as there were those who failed to disclose or withheld where they purchased the alcohol.
This data is important during the current COVID-19 pandemic lockdown measures to remind the need to enforce responsible retail and marketing practices as people are mostly restricted to homes and takeaway alcohol increases availability of the substance.
Dr John Bonning, President of ACEM touched on several factors regarding alcohol harm during COVID-19, including:
- despite lockdown measures alcohol-related cases are still presenting to EDs,
- using alcohol as an unhealthy coping mechanism for stress and anxiety during the pandemic can lead to serious short and long-term consequences,
- online platforms may be promoting binge alcohol use through their marketing,
- people who are intoxicated may not adhere to physical distancing measures,
- apart from the risks to the individual, alcohol consumption is an added burden on healthcare systems including threats of violence to ED staff from intoxicated persons.
ACEM advocates for evidence-based measures such as price, availability and access restrictions, to ensure the alcohol industry is held to account and adopts responsible retail and marketing practices to limit excessive purchases and consumption of alcohol.
ACEM also supports advocacy efforts from groups such as the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) and the Alcohol Policy Coalition calling for better regulation and restrictions on alcohol products and the alcohol industry including alcohol marketing.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has specifically advised people to avoid alcohol consumption or at least minimize it and has recommended for governments to restrict access to alcohol to reduce the avoidable burden of alcohol harm during COVID-19 and maintain mental and physical well-being.