German study reveals the dangers of alcohol - even if you're not the one drinking

Mar 26, 2019

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From fatal car accidents, to physical assaults, to drinking while  pregnant - consuming alcohol not only poses a risk to the person doing the drinking, but to those around them as well, a German study has found.  Researchers at the Munich-based Institute for Therapy Research (IFT) revealed the dangerous and sometimes deadly impact of alcohol consumption on third-party people.  

And whilst this study is based in Germany, there are clear parallels we can draw on in our situation here in New Zealand.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FAS)
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder  is estimated to affect up to 3,000 babies a year in New Zeland.  Two out of every five babies born each year are a result of an unplanned pregnancy (24,000 births). Approximately half of women drink alcohol in early pregnancy before they know they are pregnant, inadvertently exposing their developing baby to risk.
 
Fatal road accidents related to alcohol consumption

Contrary to popular opinion, people with a high blood alcohol level are more likely to be injured or killed in a crash than those who have not been drinking alcohol. As the severity of crashes increases, so does the contribution of driver alcohol.  In New Zealand, for every 100 alcohol or drug-impaired drivers or riders killed in road crashes, 50 of their passengers and 19 non-alcohol impaired road users die with them.

 

This study further reinforces the need to consider the effect of alcohol related harm beyond the individual drinker.  Again, it points to a multi-pronged approach in addressing alcohol harm.  For Kraus (research team lead), the results of the study underscore the need for changes to prevent children and other people from being negatively impacted by someone else's alcohol consumption.

"Measures such as pricing policies or restrictions on the marketing of alcoholic beverages are unpopular," he said. "Therefore, targeted measures are needed for certain people like women of childbearing age or road users in order to reduce the harm to third parties."

An example of some local strategies which go beyond the 'individual drinker'
'Pre-testie Bestie' is part of the Government’s efforts to tackle FASD. This campaign by the Health Promotion Agency aims to reduce alcohol consumption during early pregnancy by encouraging women to stop drinking if there is any chance they could be pregnant.
In terms of alcohol consumption and driving, Police estimate that each day in New Zealand, an average of 8,764 breath tests of drivers are undertaken and 100 people are charged with drink-driving (New Zealand Police, 2010).
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"The most important conclusion [of the study] is to make it clear that alcohol consumption also poses a danger to third-parties," Kraus emphasized.