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New figures show 14 ambulances a day called for excess alcohol

Media release

Underage and young females were so intoxicated from alcohol they needed urgent medical assistance more often than young men in 2016, the latest State-wide ambulance call-out figures released by St John Ambulance WA and the McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth today show.

For the first time, St John Ambulance WA has provided male and female breakdowns of ambulance call-out figures for alcohol intoxication, which show there were 247 requests for urgent medical assistance for young women aged 13 to 18, compared to 212 call-outs for young men of the same age in 2016.

In 2016, the total number of ambulance requests related to alcohol was higher than previous years, with 5063 calls for urgent medical assistance last year – an average of 14 ambulances per day, resulting in 3239 being taken to hospital. That represented an 11 per cent increase since 2014 when 4552 alcohol call-outs were recorded and compared with 4903 call-outs in 2015.

The latest figures show there were also more young people who required urgent medical assistance as a result of alcohol intoxication, with 465 cases of young people aged 18 and younger including two aged under 12, compared to a total of 399 call-outs in 2015.

St John Ambulance WA metropolitan ambulance General Manager James Sherriff said the increase in numbers, particularly in underage drinkers, was a concern.

“The worst thing is that this type of behaviour is avoidable. Alcohol can cause a lot of harm for those in the younger age group and it can cause lasting brain changes, affecting mood, ability to learn and so on. We’d encourage parents to educate their children more about the dangers of using alcohol,” Mr Sherriff said.

McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth Executive Officer Julia Stafford said she was concerned the ambulance call-out figures showed continuing high levels of alcohol-related harm in WA, even though recent surveys have pointed to encouraging trends in young people’s drinking patterns.

“The initial findings of the 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey released this month include welcome news that more young people are choosing not to drink, they’re delaying starting to drink and fewer are drinking at risky levels,” Ms Stafford said.

“Unfortunately, the ambulance call-out figures and other sources remind us that the problem is far from over. We need to ensure our governments and communities don’t get complacent. I would urge the WA Government to ensure that reducing harm from alcohol remains a priority, particularly as they draft reforms to WA’s liquor laws. We welcome the Government’s ongoing commitment to informing parents and others that no one should provide alcohol to under 18s.”