Alcohol and other Drugs – update

Con-nect-ing the sector


Grog Watch

 Issue #2  September  2012  






For first-time Far North mum Helen Christie, the decision to stop drinking alcohol was a ‘no-brainer’ when she discovered she was pregnant. The changes she has made willingly around her drinking are in stark contrast to the care-free life she led prior her pregnancy.


“At 21 I was studying hard and partying harder”, says Helen. “I would drink when I got home from Uni or work during the week and then go out every weekend with friends. Boozing it up was a way of life. Then in March this year I found I was pregnant, and everything changed. The thought of picking up another gin and tonic didn’t cross my mind. I knew that if I wanted my baby to have the best start in life then I needed to be making the right decisions during pregnancy to ensure that”.


Helen points out that her friends were supportive of her decision and she has continued to enjoy an active social life without alcohol. “The drinking stopped but the socialising didn’t.  A few of my friends thought it was a ‘bummer’ I couldn’t drink, but they understood that my decision was based on what was best for bubs. I still go to parties and to the pub to watch the rugby – but these days its ginger beer and apple juice in my hand.”


According to Ministry of Health figures, one in four mothers continues to drink alcohol during pregnancy.  Northland District Health Board Health Promotion Advisor Dave Hookway says “It is important for women to understand that there is no safe time to drink alcohol during pregnancy. Women who do drink whilst pregnant put their unborn child at risk of physical, mental, behavioral and learning disabilities with lifelong implications.”


These effects are now referred to as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder - FASD for short – and are now thought to affect 1 in every 100 children born in New Zealand each year, with some health experts believing this figure to be much higher. 


“Pregnant women also need to remember that if they chose to breast feed their baby, they also should continue to refrain from drinking alcohol especially during the first month,” says Dave.  “Alcohol passes through the breast milk to the baby”.


Helen has already made plans for when her baby is born. “I have decided to breastfeed my baby too when he or she comes in November, so that means another year or more with no alcohol. It may seem like a lot, but bub has to come first. It’s a small thing to give up considering the awesome lifelong benefits it has for my baby.”


September 9th marks the 14th anniversary of the International FASD Awareness Day. This day was chosen so that on the ninth day of the ninth month of the year, the world will remember that during the nine months of pregnancy a woman should abstain from alcohol.


Pregnant women are reminded that it is never too late to stop drinking and are encouraged to phone the free Alcohol Drug Helpline on 0800-787-797 if they are worried about their drinking.



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FASD – WHAT IS IT AND online resources.



Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is an umbrella term describing the range of effects that can occur in an individual whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. These effects can include physical, mental, behavioural, and/or learning disabilities with possible lifelong implications.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), a diagnosable condition, is just the tip of the iceberg.

To learn more about alcohol and pregnancy - check out these NZ specific websites:-

The online guide to making responsible decisions about drinking during pregnancy.

Pregnancy & Alcohol Cessation Toolkit - An Education Resource for Health Professionals

And this UK site…..

Online FASD Course


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The Ministry of Health advises new mothers that they should avoid drinking alcohol while they’re breastfeeding, especially during the first month. This is because alcohol passes through the breast milk to the baby. This can affect the baby’s growth and motor development.


Some people think that stout is a good iron source for breastfeeding mothers – this isn’t true. Other concerns of drinking at this early stage for new mothers include risk of accidents, such as being dropped or rolled on if they put baby to sleep in the same bed as themselves.


If breastfeeding mums chose to drink – it’s recommended that they have no more than one or two standard drinks. They have the option to either express before drinking and feed baby ‘alcohol-free’ milk or drink after a feed and wait until your blood alcohol level is safe before you breastfeed. In practise this means they must wait 2–3 hours before resuming breastfeeding. This is because it take at least two hours for your body to break down one standard drink and your blood alcohol level to drop to zero (two standard drinks will take four hours).


Smoking can reduce breast milk supply in some women and new mothers should continue to be supported in not smoking whilst breastfeeding.


Read more about alcohol and pregnancy





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National Addiction Centre director Doug Sellman comments in the latest NZ Medical Journal … “If we had been able to be more rational about the impacts of recreational drug use on society, it may have made more sense for the Government to have brought in strong regulations to curb the overuse of alcohol before it took steps to bring in strong regulations to curb the use of cigarettes. Why? Because the direct harm to others from the overuse of alcohol is greater than it is from the use of cigarettes.”



The latest edition contains two leading articles on alcohol harm, one addressing the harms to others from alcohol and another reporting on self-reported harms to the individual drinker. These two papers point to an enormous issue of alcohol-related harm across New Zealand and the need for urgent and effective alcohol reform at a population level.


The two studies are highlighted below – and linked to the published papers with the consent of the NZ Medical Journal.



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Two of New Zealand’s foremost experts in alcohol policy and public health - Jennie Connor and Sally Casswell – have reported that “the range and magnitude of harms from others’ drinking are substantial, but not well described” in New Zealand. Their key findings are:

·         There are no usable data on the harm to children of other people’s drinking in New Zealand, including the presence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder;

·         Harm from others’ drinking is higher than harm from one’s own drinking, especially for women and young people;

·         Up to a half of criminal offences involve someone who had been drinking;

·         Self-reported violence involved a drinking perpetrator in about half of cases;

·         About 40% of those injured and 25% of those killed in alcohol-related traffic crashes are not the drinker responsible; and

·         About 1 in 8 unintentional residential fire deaths were victims of alcohol-related fires.

   Click to read the complete study 


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In a survey of 1924 people aged 18–70, NZ researchers Jessica Meiklejohn, Jennie Connor, and  Kypros Kypri found that one in three New Zealand adult drinkers said they had been harmed by their own drinking in the past 12 months. Men, Māori, those living in a more deprived communities and the young are at increased risk of harm.

The authors argue that the high prevalence of harm points to the need for effective population-based, rather than individually-based interventions as the necessary strategy to adopt and that interventions to reduce the availability and promotion of cheap alcohol have been shown to be the most effective.

Click to read the complete study


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AOD treatment news



** NEW **   Whanau, Family & Friends Support Group


The NDHB Alcohol & Drug Service is offering a support group for whanau, family & friends who have a loved one with substance abuse/dependence issue; with or without a co-existing mental health issue. The group is held on a Monday afternoon from 4 to 5.30pm to enable people either working or looking after children to access this support.  First session is September 10th, 2012.


Address: 5 Three Mile Bush Road, Kamo, Whangarei


More information for refers        More information for clients


Adult Alcohol and Drug Services

Northland District Health Board Mental Health and Addictions - Alcohol and Drug services - are a community based outpatient service with clinics at hospital sites in Whangarei, Kawakawa, Dargaville and Kaitaia. Outpatient services are also provided in clinics at Kaikohe and Kerikeri, and visiting clinics in Kaeo and Hokianga. The service is for people 18 and over. There is no upper age limit. 

Services are offered to people with alcohol and drug problems and disorders, to those with co existing mental health and alcohol and drug problems and disorders, and to whanau and family members.

Click for more info


Child and youth Alcohol and Drug services –

Te Roopu Kimiora (TRK or Child & Youth)

Te Roopu Kimiora provide a multi-disciplinary mental health and addiction service for children aged 0 to 14, young people aged from 15 to 19 and their family/whanau who are experiencing severe mental illness and drug and alcohol problems. Family inclusive treatment is provided for young people with mental health and substance use problems. There is a specialist Youth alcohol and drug service based in Kaitaia.

Click for more info

Contact your local area hospital and ask for the Mental Health and Addiction Team, Alcohol and Drug services

Whangarei & BOI/mid North - 09 430 4100

Kaitaia - 09 408 9180

Dargaville - 09 439 3330



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In the news



MPs' liquor vote backs the teens

After two years of debate, a landmark Law Commission report and thousands of public submissions, the minimum age at which a person can buy alcohol will be left unchanged. One of the core parts of the Alcohol Reform Bill was voted down by MPs when they decided not to raise the minimum age for liquor purchases in off-licence or on-licence premises from 18 to 20.….Read more

How they voted….

Booze is worse – legal-high warning

Health professionals have told the Government that allowing the sale of alcohol while ruling out potentially less-damaging "legal highs" is farcical. Products such as Kronic will have to be proven less damaging than existing recreational drugs including alcohol and tobacco under a proposed legal-high law….Read more

Lasting IQ harm from teen dope use

The persistent use of cannabis before age 18 has been linked to lasting harm to intelligence, according to a large study. Analysis of more than 1000 New Zealanders found those who took up cannabis in adolescence and used it for years afterwards experienced an average decline in IQ of eight points when measured at age 13 and 38. People who did not begin using cannabis until they were adults, with fully formed brains, did not show the same declines. …Read more

Car interlocks welcome gain for road safety

From September 10, repeat offenders, or those convicted for the first time with twice the permitted alcohol level, could opt for an "interlock" disqualification. This will mean that after a mandatory three-month disqualification they will be restricted to driving a vehicle fitted with the interlock device for at least the next 12 months….. Read more

Australian ruling - social media pages are 'ads'

A ruling that Facebook is an advertising medium - and not just a way to communicate - will force companies to vet comments posted by the public to ensure they are not sexist, racist or factually inaccurate. Last month the advertising industry watchdog issued a judgment in which it said comments made by ''fans'' of a vodka brand's Facebook page were ads and must therefore comply with industry self-regulatory codes, and therefore consumer protection laws. A media lawyer is warning the Advertising Standards Board's ruling on Smirnoff's Facebook page will put the onus back on companies to be more vigilant about the nature of the comments people are posting to their company pages.….Read more

Huffing death renews calls for retailer responsibility

The death of a 17-year-old Christchurch girl after huffing a can of butane has again prompted the New Zealand Drug Foundation to urge shop owners to take greater responsibility for selling butane products to young people. National Addiction Centre director Doug Sellman said butane was "not far away from heroin in terms of the risk of overdose…..solvents poisoned the respiratory system, affecting breathing and could increase heart rate. A surge of adrenaline could cause that beating to become irregular and stop the heart”. Between 2007 and 2011 there were 28 huffing-related deaths in New Zealand….Read more

One sniff of butane can be fatal, inquest told  

A single inhalation from a deodorant spray or cigarette lighter can be enough to kill, an inquest into the death of a teenage "huffer" has been told.  Detective Constable Robert Lyle said young people needed to take notice of how dangerous huffing can be.

"It is possible one sniff from a cigarette lighter, or a deodorant spray can, can cause death," he told the inquest into the 16-year-old, who died in Rotorua last year. A report from the National Poisons Centre handed up at the inquest also stated a single "huff" of the propane or butane gases used in deodorants and lighters can be fatal….Read more

Govt backs down on alcopop law change

The Government has backed down on plans to restrict the sale and strength of "ready-to-drink" beverages and will let the liquor industry set its own rules for the sweetened alcoholic drinks. Industry giants lobbied Justice Minister Judith Collins to scrap proposed limits on the number of standard drinks and alcohol content in alcopops, which are highly popular with young drinkers. The Government has decided to give the alcohol industry the opportunity to introduce its own measures to limit the harm to young people caused by RTDs.. Read more

'Double edge' in alcohol and energy drinks

Mixing energy drinks with alcohol could keep you more alert as you get drunk, but it can also lead to heart palpitations, a new Australian study has found. They found when people drank alcohol and energy drinks they were more likely to have symptoms of over-stimulation including heart palpitations, sleep difficulties, agitation, tremors, increased speech speed, irritability and tension….. Read more

High cost for drug testing beneficiaries: Health ministry

The Council of Trade Unions says drug testing people on welfare is no more than beneficiary bashing after revelations Ministry of Health warned the Government its policy will cost twice as much as it saves. President Helen Kelly said “the ministry had warned more money would have to be spend on rehabilitation because recreational users could claim they were drug addicts to avoid losing 13 weeks of their benefits” ….. Read more


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Compiled and produced by:


Dave Hookway  - Health Promotion Advisor - Alcohol and other Drugs

Northland District Health Board - 55 Hobson Ave, Kerikeri 

Postal address: - PO Box 906, Kerikeri 0230, Bay of Islands


(  Ph (09) 430-4101 x 7895 | Mob 021-221-4027

or freephone 0800-537-4342 option #3    Fax 09-4076215


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Need help now?


 To talk to someone about your or someone else’s alcohol or other drug use,

or for contacts of your local counsellor or treatment provider,

phone the free and confidential

Alcohol Drug Helpline on 0800-787-797  from 10am to 10pm
or visit

In an Emergency dial 111