ACEM has released findings from Canberra and Calvary hospitals, collected as part of the Driving Change project. Driving Change asks all adults who present to the ED whether they drank alcohol before their attendance, where they bought the alcohol, and the location of the last drink.

Over a three month period earlier this year, data collected from Canberra’s EDs shows that on Friday and Saturday nights, about one in every seven patients were there due to alcohol consumption (15.8% at Calvary and 13.5% at The Canberra Hospital).
 
Clinicians at Calvary hospital also asked about illicit drug use, which accounted for barely 1% of presentations, confirming that it is alcohol that causes disproportionate harm.
 
ACEM President Simon Judkins said: “Emergency physicians regularly manage the effects of excessive alcohol consumption on individual health, as well as assaults or verbal and physical threats from drunk patients. It is stressful and confronting to see and have to manage this every weekend.”

The Driving Change data showed that the main reasons for attending the emergency department were for withdrawal, physical injuries, suicide ideation, mental distress and pain. Data shows that dangerous levels of drinking (more than two standard drinks on each occasion) is pervasive across the ACT community, regardless of age and gender, although men were more likely to drink at dangerous levels.
 
More concerning, at least half (49.3% - 58.7%) of the people attending the Calvary and Canberra EDs and who reported consuming alcohol in the preceding 12 hours had purchased alcohol from supermarkets and bottle shops. This is likely under-reported because of the number of people who were unable to recall the purchase location, or who were unconscious or refused to respond.
 
The ACEM President has recently called for a national alcohol strategy to address this harm. “It simply does not make sense that emergency departments around the nation are struggling with the impact of alcohol presentations on overcrowding and access block, and yet we are still waiting to see a national alcohol strategy developed as part of a promised federal whole-of-government drug strategy,” Dr Judkins said.

The mostly commonly reported venues in Canberra for last drinks before needing to go to an ED were concentrated in either Civic or Kingston:

  • Mooseheads,
  • Mr Wolf,
  • P.J O’Reilly’s,
  • The Dock and
  • Manuka Oval, as well as
  • Vikings Club (Erindale) in the south of Canberra. 

The Driving Change project is led by Professor Peter Miller at Deakin University, with funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council. In addition to the two EDs in Canberra, there are participating hospitals in Melbourne, Geelong, Sydney and Warrnambool. Central Queensland University, the University of New South Wales, Australian National University and Cardiff University (Wales) are also partners in the project.

More details: Last Drinks

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