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Problematic alcohol consumption in Australia

Explore the literature on problematic alcohol use in Australia to discuss the risks and protective factors for alcohol use in a specific Australian population group.

The trend of alcohol consumption in Australia is rising specifically among the young adults. Problematic alcohol use is a major cause of mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, autism, mood disorder and psychotic disorders. In most cases, these mental disorders develop due to the consumption of excess alcohol for a long time. However, some mental disorders occur in the short-term. Even though there are several programs designed to address the problematic alcohol consumption, some youths do not have access to these programs. This scholarly paper aims to explore the problem of alcohol use in the population aged between 14 and 17 years. The study will also evaluate the risk factors and protective factors for alcohol consumption. The paper will elucidate the Alcohol and Drug Information Services (ADIS) which is an evidence-based program for addressing problematic alcohol use in Australia. In the last part, it will examine the role of nursing in combating problematic alcohol use.

Alcohol abuse is a significant problem in among adolescents in Australia. The population aged between 14 and 17 years is greatly affected by alcohol use. One study conducted in 2011 found that 74 percent of Australians aged 14 years old have used alcohol in the past. The study further found that 90.9 percent of those aged 17 years have consumed alcohol at one particular time in their life. Individuals aged 14 and 17 years were found to have consumed about four drinks on a single day in the last seven days. The most consumed alcoholic drinks are spirits, pre-mixed spirits, ordinary beer and alcoholic sodas (Kelly, et al., 2016). Males comprise the highest number of drinkers in this population. Even in the entire population in Australia, men drink more alcohol compared to women (Wilsnack, Wilsnack, Kristjanson, Vogeltanz-Holm, & Gmel, 2009). Most adolescents who make this population are students. Hence, a large percentage consumes alcohol in school with friends while others access alcohol in their homes. There are however some adolescents who purchase alcohol from bottle shops, liquor stores and supermarkets.

The selected population has high chances of consuming hazardous levels of alcohol. A recent study indicates that despite public education on the adverse impacts of alcohol consumption, the trend of drinking remained constant between 2001 and 2007. In fact, it was reported that about 10 percent of the population consume high amounts of alcohol, which can result in long-term harm. For instance, in Western Australia, 39 percent of the individuals who are aged 14 years and above drink a lot of alcohol that has a chance of causing harm in the short-term. 11 percent of this population drinks alcohol levels that have a chance of causing harm in the long-term. Wholesalers of alcohol continue to record high returns since per capita alcohol drinking is rising in Australia (Pereira, Wood, Foster, & Haggar, 2013). This analysis indicates that the population aged between 14 and 17 years has higher chances of suffering from mental disorders than the rest of the population.

Risk factors

Empirical studies show that consumption of alcohol is a key risk factor for disease burden in Australia. Based on a study conducted in 2013, 26 percent of the population aged 14 years in Australia had experienced an alcohol-related harm. Mental disorders are the most common harms that adolescents experienced as a result of excessive drinking (Ward, Kippen, Buykx, Munro, McBride, & Wiggers, 2016). Besides, excessive consumption of alcohol is associated with suicidal behaviour. Suicidal behaviour occurs due to impaired judgment and disinhibition. Some individuals who consume alcohol might use suicide as a way of reducing stress (Pompili, et al., 2010). Drinking alcohol has significant adverse impacts on students. Students who consume high amounts of alcohol have 1.2 higher chances of experiencing psychological distress compared to students who drink low levels of alcohol. Additionally, students who take excessive alcohol are more likely to miss classes, exhibit low concentration in class and fail to handle assignments (Tembo, Burns, & Kalembo, 2017). The population under study in this paper comprises of students who might suffer these mental disorders.

Various risk factors influence the consumption of alcohol among adolescents. Adolescent development experiences, as well as social settings, expose youths to alcohol consumption. Some of the environments that expose young people to alcohol abuse are sporting and recreational settings. As youth socialise, they have higher chances of being introduced to alcohol abuse (Toumbourou, Evans-Whipp, Smith, Hemphill, Herrenkohl, & Catalano, 2014).

Another risk factor for the consumption of excess alcohol is the lack of legislation on the minimum age for alcohol drinking. Australia has embraced the system of most western nations that restrict the sale of alcohol based on age, club licenses and the consumption of alcohol in licensed places. Alcohol is not sold to those aged under 18 years (Howard, Gordon, & Jones, 2014). Since the adolescents are not restricted from drinking alcohol, they can obtain alcohol from different sources.

The prevalence of alcohol abuse among the youths indicates that they obtain alcohol from peers and parents (Kaynak, Winters, Cacciola, Kirby, & Arria, 2014). In 2009, 388 parents from Australia were involved in a survey aimed to determine whether parents supply alcohol to their children. The survey found that 37 percent of the parents had supplied their children with alcohol in the past 3 months (Ward & Snow, 2011). The study concluded that most adolescents obtain alcohol from their parents. Studies show that parents are increasingly lowering the supply of alcohol to minors. In 2004, 21.3 percent of parents asserted that they supplied alcohol to their children. This number dropped to 11.7 percent in 2013 (Kelly, et al., 2016). Parents who supply alcohol to their children claim that they are protecting the children from harm. Longitudinal and cross-sectional studies found that there is no evidence of protection when parents supply alcohol to their children. Instead, the parents are continuously cultivating the habit of drinking in the adolescents (Kaynak, Winters, Cacciola, Kirby, & Arria, 2014). The abuse of alcohol is high when the adolescents are unsupervised. Parental supervision can lower the incidences of excessive consumption of alcohol among the young adults.

Protective factors

Another risk factor for the consumption of alcohol is the exposure drinking habits in schools. Learning institutions play a vital role controlling the consumption of alcohol among students through practices and regulations. Alcohol abuse in the presence of learners indicates approval for drinking and might encourage students to adopt drinking habits (Ward, Buykx, Munro, Hausdorf, & Wiggers, 2014). Recent reports indicate that the habit of drinking alcohol in the presence of children in Australia is on the rise. Most adults drink alcohol during school events.

Peer pressure is another risk factor for the problematic alcohol use in Australia. Adolescents tend to influence and initiate each other into alcoholism. There is an important part of peer-relations in the emergence of adolescent drinking behaviour (Han, Grogan-Kaylor, Delva, & Castillo, 2012). Youths who are introduced into drinking by their peers might be worse addicts compared to those who are introduced by their parents.

Regardless of the rampant alcohol abuse in the population aged 14 to 17 years, there are some protective factors. The protective factors can be classified as community, family, individual and school protective factors.

Some aspects of the community act as protective factors against drinking alcohol. The primary community protective factor is getting a reward for prosocial engagement (Hemphill, Heerde, Herrenkohl, Patton, Toumbourou, & Catalano, 2011). It is notable that some individuals in the community reward good behaviour in the youths. In other instances, the youths might be rewarded for doing something noble for the community. The activities that are rewarded in the community are getting involved in community groups and involvement in community building. Engagement in community sports is another community protective element.

The family setting acts as an important protective factor. As discussed in previous paragraphs, the parents play a fundamental role in shaping the alcohol behaviour of a child. The main family protective factor is being close to the parents. A study conducted in Australia revealed that some youths were attached to their fathers while others were attached to their mothers (Hemphill, Heerde, Herrenkohl, Patton, Toumbourou, & Catalano, 2011). The level of attachment determines whether the adolescents are in the position to share their thoughts and feelings openly. It is notable that youths who share with their parents have fewer chances of being initiated into alcohol abuse. Youths who spend a lot of time with their family doing positive things have higher chances of disclosing their whereabouts to the parents. Also, they have higher chances of adhering to parental discipline. 

The school can model the behaviour of the students either positively or negatively. School games and avenues for socialisation are some of the protective factors in school. Commitment to school activities helps students to avoid dangerous behaviours such as alcohol abuse. Rewards for outstanding behaviour motivate the students to uphold ethics as well as avoid engaging in activities that may result in harm.

Personal values and behaviours are important protective factors against the consumption of alcohol. Various individual protective factors impend the youths from engaging in alcohol abuse. The religiosity of an individual is an important personal protective factor (Hemphill, Heerde, Herrenkohl, Patton, Toumbourou, & Catalano, 2011). The inclination to religious gatherings, activities and services defines the religiosity of an individual. Another personal protective factor is the belief in the moral order. The moral order includes factors such as being honest, just and trustworthy. Self-efficacy and academic performance act as protective factors against alcohol abuse when expressed at high levels. Lastly, social variables including peer pressure and antisocial behaviour are positively associated with low alcohol drinking if they occur in low values.

The program that addresses alcohol use in Australia is Alcohol and Drug Information Services (ADIS). ADIS is designed to deal with the problematic alcohol use at the state and territory levels.

ADIS is a telephone-based counselling service that is offered by trained counsellors who have a background in the alcohol field. The program is provided by the Drug and Alcohol Services across Australia. The program is offered 24 hours a day, which means it can be accessed at any time of the day. Various telephone numbers have been made available for the public to call in case they require specialised help. Even though ADIS is open to the public, it is a confidential program (Tzelepis, et al., 2015). Vast information is available for people who use the ADIS program. The professionals can inquire what is happening to the caller specifically about alcohol use. Besides, they offer emotional support to individuals who are addicted to alcohol. Emotion-regulation techniques mainly the capacity to control adverse emotions is a vital target in managing alcohol dependence (AD) (Berking, Margraf, Ebert, Wupperman, Hofmann, & Junghannsb, 2012).

The counsellors further advise the clients about treatment options. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is among the most effective interventions for alcohol abuse. The professionals have extensive knowledge of the available treatments for problematic alcohol use. The final intervention for alcohol addicts is referring clients to local services. Clients are referred to the suitable local service based on their condition or level of alcohol addiction. General practitioners also get help from the counsellors. The counselling is often customized to the client’s needs. Help is offered about both short-term and long-term impacts of alcohol abuse. A significant part of the program offers information about the side effects of alcohol and symptoms of intoxication (Tzelepis, et al., 2015).

ADIS targets a wide client base in the community. The main target for the program is individuals and families. Australians who are experiencing problematic alcohol use can enrol in the program because it is free. The design of ADIS makes it cost-effective and practical for families and individual clients.

ADIS has multiple goals that are meant to enhance the quality of life (QOL) of people experiencing problematic alcohol use. The overall intention of the program is to help people reduce or stop alcohol use. Additionally, it has an objective of offering ready information about alcohol abuse. Australians struggling with alcohol abuse, pharmacies and prescribers get readily available information. It aims to educate alcohol addicts on the mental health issues associated with alcohol abuse. When youths are informed of the possible mental illnesses linked to substance abuse, there are high chances of withdrawal. The program cultivates healthy stress-management initiatives among the general population. People who experience mental health illnesses linked to alcohol abuse tend to develop stress. 

Nurses’ offer enhanced service for problematic alcohol use in primary care. The enhanced services act as the first type of intervention for people seeking to address alcohol abuse. The nursing role in primary care should start with the screening of the population aged between 14 and 17 years. Different alcohol screening tools have been developed for use in primary care. The most effective tools that nurses should use are the Fast Alcohol Screening Test (FAST) and Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test (AUDIT) (Meneses-Gaya, et al., 2010). AUDIT is effective for all genders and races (Frank, DeBenedetti, Volk, Williams, Kivlahan, & Bradley, 2008). Conversely, FAST is sensitive and sensitive (GROVES, et al., 2010). All the participants who test positive for these tests should be offered intervention to lower the risk of developing alcohol-based illnesses. The process of screening entails asking the participants questions that will reveal whether they are experiencing alcohol dependency. Empirical evidence asserts that after the screening, intervention should be offered as fast as possible to reduce the impact (Kaner, et al., 2013). In most cases, intervention should be initiated on the same day after the screening.

Nurses in primary care can offer treatment in different ways. The best methods that have been proposed in this report are detailed lifestyle counselling, enhanced patient information and person-tailored counselling. Patient information can be provided through leaflets after the screening process. Apart from the leaflets, the individuals should be offered more information about their drinking levels. The information should be accompanied with techniques on how to minimise alcohol levels. The next type of intervention should be lifestyle counselling. However, the lifestyle counselling should be conducted after an appointment (Hamilton & Baker, 2013). An appointment is fundamental because the provider should first understand the lifestyle of individual, drinking habit and willingness to adhere to treatment plans.

Although there three interventions are important for problematic alcohol use, feedback and detailed information are the most suitable interventions to minimise excessive alcohol consumption. The types of interventions discussed in the above paragraphs are effective, yet they require minimal training. The structure of the enhanced service in primary care is a key factor for success. Community-based intervention is the most effective approach. The primary care will be offered at Local Government Area (LGA) levels. Youths aged between 14 and 17 years will be recruited into the program if they exhibit the willingness to reduce, stop or manage alcohol abuse.

Conclusion

As evident in this paper, alcohol use is a significant problem in Australia. The study is specifically focused on the population aged between 14 and 17 years. The selected population engages in alcohol abuse due to various risk factors. Parental supply, exposure to alcohol in school, peer pressure and lack of firm legislation are among of the main risk factors for alcohol use among the chosen population.  Protective factors are rewards for exemplary behaviour, parental supervision, sporting activities and involvement in community activities. The program that has been developed to address the problem of alcohol use in Australia is ADIS, and it aims to help people reduce, manage and stop alcohol abuse. Nurses have a role in screening and introducing interventions to address problematic alcohol use

References

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Frank, D., DeBenedetti, A. F., Volk, R. J., Williams, E. C., Kivlahan, D. R., & Bradley, K. A. (2008). Effectiveness of the AUDIT-C as a Screening Test for Alcohol Misuse in Three Race/Ethnic Groups. J Gen Intern Med , 23 (6), 781-787.

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