Finding Balance Amidst a Binge Drinking Culture

Written by River Paton

It’s Friday night and it’s been a long week. Some workmates suggest heading out for a few drinks to let off some steam and see in the weekend. And you do have a great night – at least you think so. As you wake on Saturday morning, memories of the night before are hazy or missing, and you’re left with a splitting headache. So much for the productive weekend you’d been planning.

Alcohol use is deeply embedded in our culture. It’s often used as a relaxant, a social lubricant, or a stress reliever, among many other reasons – but these effects come at a cost. Alcohol and other drugs can have a big impact both at work and in our personal lives. That’s where PIVOT comes in: a self-pay, early-intervention drug, alcohol and wellbeing counselling service, run by Explore Hāpainga Ora. PIVOT is specifically designed to work with people who notice that their alcohol and/or other drug use is starting to interfere with their overall wellbeing.

Many New Zealanders are interested in changing their relationship with alcohol and other drugs, but it can be difficult when we live in a nation that has a binge drinking culture, and where many of us are exposed to alcohol and other kinds of drugs from a young age. Drug use – particularly alcohol – is in the DNA of our “Kiwi culture”, with many research studies providing compelling evidence of the challenging relationship we have with alcohol. The NZ Health Survey 2021/2022 found that 79% of New Zealand adults had consumed alcohol in the previous 12 months and over that time 25% of those had drunk hazardously, in a way that could cause harm to themselves or others. Evidence also tells us that men are two times more at risk of hazardous use than are women. Additionally we know that Kiwis consume more alcohol per capita than do Americans or Canadians, according to a 2016 study.

With so much at stake, the Explore team knew something had to be done. We designed PIVOT to be the fence at the top of the cliff, not the ambulance at the bottom: supporting Kiwis to reduce the risk of further harm caused by unhealthy substance use. People shouldn’t have to wait until the social and personal consequences of these habits lead to serious impacts on their life before getting help. Instead, PIVOT supports people in developing healthier ways to manage life’s challenges and building an overall positive sense of wellbeing. This approach has the potential to make a real difference for New Zealanders, addressing problematic patterns and ways of thinking before they spiral out of control.

Does someone you love need a little help recalibrating their relationship with alcohol or drug use? Perhaps you’d like some guidance and support in this area yourself? The compassionate experts at Explore Hāpainga Ora are here to help. Reach out today for a no-pressure, no-judgement chat to find out what PIVOT can do for you or your loved ones. 

River Paton is an experienced leader, manager and practitioner in the drug and alcohol treatment sector, and works as the Specialist Service Manager of Explore’s Drug, Alcohol and Wellbeing Service.

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