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05 Mar, 2019

New research from health promotion foundation VicHealth and Monash University has found Victorian men are underestimating the harm from heavy drinking, with some believing the health risks only begin at 30 drinks per session.

With Aussie men at higher risk from alcohol than women, the study looked at what influences groups of men to drink, highlighting the drinking culture among sports players and supporters, hospitality and office workers. It found:

  • 59 per cent of the men surveyed said they downed more than five drinks in one session weekly and 38 per cent said they drank more than 11 drinks in one session monthly
  • While risky drinking was highly prevalent amongst all sub-groups hospitality workers had the highest rates of risky drinking attributed to access to free drinks and the perceived necessity for winding down post-work
  • Alcohol was described by the men as a way of ‘opening-up’ to each other and many felt they couldn’t socialise without drinking – even with close mates
  • Men described their drinking as autonomous yet were observed to be heavily influenced by other men in the group through round buying, being pressured to drink or making fun of those who chose ‘fruity’ drinks with lower alcohol content
  • Men were very hesitant to step in and intervene to help a mate who was drinking heavily unless he was trying to drive or drunk to the point of being completely incapacitated
  • Men described ‘inheriting’ drinking behaviours from their fathers and drinking being central to being an Australian man
  • Men were uncomfortable about the Australian drinking culture but felt powerless to change it.

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Date: February 2019  Source: University of Illinois at Chicago

Summary: Lasting changes in the brain caused by drinking that starts in adolescence are the result of epigenetic changes that alter the expression of a protein crucial for the formation and maintenance of neural connections in the amygdala -- the part of the brain involved in emotion, fear and anxiety.     

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Christina DeLay is co-founder of Altina Drinks, a social enterprise hoping to tip Australia’s drinking culture on its head with a range of alcohol-free cocktails. She’s this week’s changemaker.  

What first inspired you to start a company that makes alcohol-free cocktails?

It was because of my own personal experience with drinking. I was working as a consultant in Canberra, and got quite caught up in the drinking culture of that industry – after-work drinks with your colleagues, business lunches, there’s alcohol at everything. When I cut back on the drinking, I realised what an important part of the social aspect of the industry going out and drinking was.

Were you surprised at people’s responses to you not drinking?

People around me really started to wonder what was wrong and why I wasn’t drinking. I was often asked if I was pregnant, and I would go to the bar and ask if I could have a water with a slice of lime in it to make it look like an alcoholic drink, to avoid those questions.

It really felt like it was me that had a problem, because I didn’t want to drink anymore. That was a real trigger to start having a bit of a conversation about more mindful drinking and drinking on your own terms, to counteract those social pressures that are in a lot of scenarios.

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January 17, 2019

A study of 84 twin/sibling pairs exposed to alcohol in utero shows that two fetuses exposed to identical levels of alcohol can experience strikingly different levels of neurological damage.  Risk of damage does not depend solely on the pregnant woman’s alcohol consumption; rather, fetal genetics plays a vital role, according to findings published today in the journal Advances in Pediatric Research.

“The evidence is conclusive,” said lead author Susan Astley Hemingway, professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

From a public-health standpoint, she said, the biggest take-away is that a fetus’ genetic makeup is a determinant to the risk of neurological damage from a mother’s alcohol consumption.  To protect all fetuses, including those most genetically vulnerable, the only safe amount of alcohol is none at all, the report concludes.

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Breast milk is a live substance with unmatched immunological and anti-inflammatory characteristics that protect an infant against a variety of illnesses, infections, and diseases. It provides all the necessary nutrients a baby needs for its first six months.

Breastfeeding is deemed extremely beneficial and essential for both the mother and the child. However, it is essential to understand that nicotine and alcohol affect breastfeeding and harmful substances can be transferred to the baby through breast milk.

A recent study has noted a significant impact of drinking while breastfeeding upon children’s future cognition. Infants exposed to alcohol through breastmilk were found exposed to dose-dependent reductions in their cognitive abilities. The study, that appeared earlier this year in the journal Pediatrics, conclusively established that drinking alcohol while breastfeeding can impact the cognitive development of the child.

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