Why should we be alcohol free?
Alcohol is the ingredient found in beer, wine and spirits. It is formed when yeast ferments (breaks down without oxygen) the sugars in different food. For example, wine is made from the sugar in grapes, beer from the sugar in malted barley (a type of grain), cider from the sugar in apples, vodka from the sugar in potatoes, beets or other plants.
Alcohol is one of the most commonly used recreational drugs in New Zealand and has many harmful short and long-term effects for whānau and for our wider society. Alcohol is a ‘sedative hypnotic’ drug, which means it slows down our bodies’ central nervous system when consumed at high doses. When drunk at low doses, alcohol can act as a stimulant, which can result in feelings of euphoria and talkativeness, while drinking too much alcohol in one session can cause drunkenness. Being drunk is linked with risky behaviour, injury, driving accidents and violence. At the extreme end, it can lead to coma, or death. Over time, excessive drinking has many other harmful effects such as mental health issues, alcohol dependence or addiction, liver disease, and heart disease. Excessive drinking is also associated with high levels of absenteeism from work or study and relationship difficulties.
While most whānau drink alcohol in moderation and do this responsibly, drinking problems and dependence on alcohol affects people's lives and the lives of their wider whānau. Let’s join together to ease up on the drink and in doing so, be role models for our rangatahi.
“He oranga ngākau he pikinga waiora – Positive feelings in your heart will enhance your sense of self-worth”
This whakatauki/proverb illustrates the importance of looking after our bodies so we are healthy in mind and spirit, which are all taonga!!!
Alcohol can have a big impact on our social, spiritual, physical, and mental health and wellbeing. It affects our ability to assess risks and make good decisions, and we may do things when we’ve been drinking that we do not usually do, and may later regret.
Drinking alcohol has many harmful short and long-term effects for individuals, for hapū, and for society. Consuming large amounts of alcohol in one sitting can cause drunkenness leading to drowsiness and respiratory depression (where breathing becomes slow, shallow or stops entirely). Being drunk can also result in injury from drink driving accidents, violence, coma or death. Alcohol is a “carcinogen,” which means it can cause cancer in a similar way that tobacco does. For a long time it has been known that alcohol increases the risk of mouth, throat, bowel, and liver cancers; and now we also know that it increases the risk of breast cancer.
Alcohol also has many other harmful effects such as mental health issues, alcohol dependence or addiction, liver disease, and heart disease. Consuming alcohol while pregnant can cause lifelong harm to the child - see fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
As a hapū it is important to note that alcohol-related harm and injuries affect Māori at greater rates than anyone else. Twice as many Māori die from alcohol-related harm than non-Māori, and one in three Māori who drank alcohol in the last year has a drinking pattern that could cause harm to themselves or others.
Drinking alcohol can affect not only our lives, but the lives of our whānau in so many ways. Being alcohol free is a choice that whānau and hapū can make, that supports healthy lifestyles and shows not only our tamariki, but also our wider hapū, a commitment to healthy living and upholds the traditional practices of our tupuna.
Marae are the hub of hapū activity, and it’s the perfect place to show that as a whānau we can enjoy and celebrate events and occasions without alcohol. Making your marae alcohol free is a powerful way to show hapū commitment to whānau health and to create a positive and safe environment for tamariki. The flow on effects of this can be significant. Alcohol free will be normalised to tamariki and they will see that having fun and being active can be done without alcohol, members of your hapū who may be struggling with the amount of alcohol they drink will be supported to reduce their intake, and the chances of disorder at marae events will be reduced, as alcohol is involved in one-third of all offences recorded by New Zealand Police.
Mātua are the number one role models for tamariki. This means parents can have a big influence on shaping the attitudes of their tamariki to alcohol and future drinking behaviour. It’s important to be aware and think about how you speak about and behave around alcohol. If you are offered a drink and say, “no thanks, I’m driving”, you are role modelling that it is not okay to drink and drive – and your tamariki learn from you. Parents who drink and have more relaxed attitudes towards drinking alcohol are more likely to have kids who consume alcohol at risky levels.
Being alcohol free doesn’t have to mean fun free. There are heaps of alternatives you can provide on your marae instead of alcohol, like water flavoured with lemon and mint from your own maara kai, a huge variety of mocktails, or sparkling grape juice.
There are also individual benefits to whānau being alcohol free including:
If you stop drinking completely one of the first things you notice should be improved energy levels. Drinking alcohol regularly can affect the quality of your sleep making you feel tired and sluggish, this is because drinking disrupts your sleep cycle and gives you poorer quality sleep.
Maintain a healthy weight
Alcoholic drinks are full of calories so not drinking at all is likely to make it easier to maintain a healthy weight. Did you know a pint of 4% beer has about the same calories as a burger?
Alcohol intake increases your risk of many different harms to health, as well as shorter lives.
Alcohol is linked to seven different types of cancer including breast cancer and mouth cancer. Cutting alcohol out lowers your risk of getting cancer.
It has been thought that moderate intake of red wine may improve heart health and reduce heart attacks. However, there is increasing research to show that this is not true.
The more you drink the higher the risk of developing health problems, including:
• Liver cirrhosis and liver failure
• Cancer, including breast cancer and liver cancer
• Heart disease and high blood pressure
• Sexual dysfunction
• Rosacea (a skin disorder)
Reducing or eliminating your alcohol intake can make a real difference to your health.
Better mental health
While alcohol can have a very temporary positive impact on our mood, in the long term it can cause big problems for our mental health. It’s linked to a range of issues from depression and memory loss, to suicide. This is because regular, heavy drinking interferes with neurotransmitters in our brains that are needed for good mental health. Drinking heavily can also affect your relationships with your partner, whānau and friends, and can be linked to aggression. These issues can also contribute to depression.
Protect your pēpi
Drinking alcohol at any stage while hapu can affect the development of the unborn pēpi. For mama who are breastfeeding, alcohol can also be passed through breastmilk to your pēpi. The best decision you can make for your pēpi, is to be free from any alcohol.