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Thursday, 8 November 2012

What hope do we really have?

It has been really interesting to see media coverage of the Melbourne Cup this year. Images of drunk racegoers falling to the ground with alcohol in their hands even managed to make front page news in the UK. It seems that no matter how you dress it up - getting drunk is not attractive - at last we're acknowledging that!

Then you find 'articles' like the one I was sent from Melinda Tankard-Reist yesterday that makes you realize just how far we have to go. Melinda does an amazing job highlighting a range of issues, particularly around the sexualisation of our young women. The piece she sent me came from Zoo Weekly magazine and was contained in an article called 'Truths that are Lies' challenging a number of so-called 'myths' including 'Alcohol kills brain cells'. Their response to this statement was as follows:

"Here's a good reason to go out, get slaughtered and urinate on a
policeman: even industrial quantities of booze won't destroy the grey matter. Numerous studies have shown that while getting leathered affects behaviour, positively and negatively, it's not linked with permanent cell damage, even for committed park-bench alcoholics. The cells' ability to communicate with each other is impaired during drinking (hence the falling over and the dad-dancing) but the moment you stop, those same cells begin functioning again."

Really?

Apparently, Zoo magazine is read by 28,000 young people aged 14-17 every month. The messages it sends around alcohol and getting drunk are consistently abhorrent - this piece, minimising the impact of binge drinking is no exception. Manipulating research in an attempt at schoolboy humour (get so drunk you can "urinate on a policeman") is shameful but unfortunately not unexpected from a publication like Zoo.

At a time when the community is becoming more concerned about underage drinking, and binge drinking more widely, it would be great to have the media on our side. Unfortunately we continue to have Top 40 radio show hosts asking teens to call up and tell their most embarrassing drinking story to the world and breakfast TV presenters laughing about how drunk they got at last year's Logies.

Alcohol is part of our world and I'm not suggesting that we pretend that isn't the case but why should we be constantly celebrating, and hence promoting, drinking to excess? Yes, it's a guaranteed laugh - but it's a cheap laugh ... Unfortunately it doesn't always end that way for some - I come in contact with young people who drink just a bit too much and end up sexually assaulted or a victim of senseless violence. Who laughs then?

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About Me

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Paul Dillon has been working in the area of drug education for the past 25 years. Through his own business, Drug and Alcohol Research and Training Australia (DARTA) he has been contracted by many organisations to give regular updates on current drug trends. He has also worked with many school communities to ensure that they have access to good quality information and best practice drug education. His book 'Teenagers, Alcohol and Drugs' was released nationally in February 2009. With a broad knowledge of a range of content areas, Paul regularly appears in the media and is regarded as a key social commentator, with interviews on television programs such as Sunrise, TODAY and The Project.