Inaction on alcohol a 'glaring exception' from mental health recommendations - expert

The AM Show 12/07/2019

Alcohol experts are angered by what they're calling Government inaction on curbing excessive drinking, even after it was recommended by the mental health and addiction inquiry.

The report on New Zealand's mental health care recommended a number of sweeping changes, including on the sale and supply of alcohol. 

The Government accepted most of the reviews 40 reccomendations, but said "further consideration needed" for the suggestions relating to alcohol sale and the decriminalisation of drugs.

It has accepted reccomendations for changes to commit funding for more options for therapies for alcohol issues and establish clear cross-sector leadershup wthing Government for policy on alcohol.

A group of four psychiatrists and a psychologist wrote an editorial explaining their concerns for the latest New Zealand Medical Journal.

Otago University's National Addiction Centre director Dr Simon Adamson told The AM Show it's familiar behaviour from the Government.

We're not seeing action in this area, no.

"It's a glaring exception from the recommendations that came out from the inquiry into mental health and addiction," he said.

"It is part of a pattern of governance not being willing to act on alcohol regulation."

He couldn't say why the Government isn't doing anything, but there's suggestion outside influences have been involved.

"If we think which part of the community is benefiting from New Zealand continuing to drink an unhealthy amount of alcohol, then I suspect there is some lobbyist involvement that's part of this."

New Zealand's drinking culture is unhealthy as it is, but Dr Adamson said it's concerning because alcohol has been found to contribute to a number of suicides.

"When you get a large amount of data then you can start to see patterns.

Alcohol is a significant contributor to a third of suicides in New Zealand.

"This inquiry into mental health and addiction is tackling something that affects all of New Zealand, we're all very concerned around mental health and addiction, they're complex areas and this was one of the low-hanging fruit."

Adamson said the National Addiction Centre brought up concerns about alcohol during the inquiry, but he knows it wasn't alone.

"We know there are a wide number of contributors to that inquiry who all raised the same concern, why aren't we tackling this one area?"