lifestyle

Australians are more hammered than ever.

Fact: Aussies love a drink.

We’re the good time party people, always ready with a tinnie, a ciggie, and if you’re lucky, a doobie too. Aussies are the cheeky people, the good time gals, the last ones standing, and are always, always, up for a drink.

But this fun-loving attitude that exists at the very core of our nation’s identity is swiftly becoming something darker – with drug and alcohol use on the rise, a very real problem of dependence is emerging.

So how, in a the land of milk and honey, green smoothies, outdoor yoga, and 1pm lockouts have we managed to becoming the booziest we’ve ever been?

From Bob Hawke, our former PM who also held the record for sculling a yard glass of beer (11 seconds, if you were wondering), to Karl Stefanovic, beloved boozehound and TV host who turned up pissed as a newt following a night on the turps at the 2009 Logies; our nation has been founded on drinking.

Yup, to be Australian is to die with a pair of BBQ tongs in one hand, and a XXXX Bitter in the other.

Our former PM Bob Hawke held the world recording for sculling a yard glass of beer. Here he is in action, watched by a very impressed Gough Whitlam. Onya, Bob.

But in recent years, something has changed.

Specifically, two things happened: firstly, a scary wave of youth violence swept our nightlife. Coward punches, drug overdoses, and drink spiking became the ugly flip side of the coin, the darker result of a changing scene of drinking.

Simultaneously, the Mindful Revolution reached our sunburnt shores, and suddenly, green smoothies, body worship, and beach yoga were IN; and the Great Australian Boozy Lunch, beer bongs, and Friday work drinks were OUT.

Aussie drinking could not even be dampened by the great Yuppie Mindful Revolution of the last few years.

Before long, we became ‘the nanny country’. Australia is now facing unprecedented laws designed to curb our drinking habits, to the support of many. We have lockout laws, tax hikes on alcopops, drug and alcohol testing on all main roads, increased fines, vast alcohol-free zones, and random drug and alcohol tests in most corporate organisations.

And still, despite all of this, we’ve pulled a real El Chapo and somehow managed to increase the average intake per person per year by 90 standard drinks.

*Confused and unsure applause*

Recent testing of Sydney bars and clubs showed 80% tested positive to traces of narcotics in bathroom cubicles. What is interesting, however, is that this is a massive increase on recent years – 35% in five years, actually. The same report noted that possession and use of coke had increase a massive 87.5%, with possession and use of ecstasy up 22%.

(Um, by the way: Australians are the number 1 ecstasy users in the world, and number 4 for cocaine. Insane.)

Is a Friday night line, replacing the Friday night wine?

Our excessive drinking problem undoubtedly has its roots in the fake-tanned, Snapchat, pre-paid-mobile wilderness of Aussie teenagers. With the average age of new drinkers now pegged as young as 13 or 14 years old, they are reported to be drinking on average around 7 – 10 standard drinks a night.

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Uh, I don’t know about you, but I enter vomit territory after like, 4 glasses of wine. Seven? TEN? I would be unconscious, covered in my own spew, lying naked on my bathroom tiles and dreaming about what type of carbohydrate binge I would be having the next day.

Of the teens, the girls are becoming the biggest boozers. From a period lasting just over 5 years (2005 to 2011), the percentage of teenage girls being admitted to the emergency department jumped 63% – whereas it rose only 21% for teenage boys. Girls don’t want to be perceived as uncool, or boring, or immature; and as someone who was a teenage girl not that long ago (ahem), I can clearly remember equating ‘coolness’ with the ability to consume, and handle, large amounts of alcohol.

Remember when the races weren’t a parade of drunken, shoeless drunks? Yeah. Me neither.

Indeed, increased binge drinking is quickly becoming the domain of young women, who are drinking heavier, and harder, than ever before. Women have tossed their polite peach bellinis to the wind, opting these days for hard-hitting spirits like scotch and whisky. One can only speculate that as we continue to battle our our place on the corporate ladder, we are working to nudge out the fellas at the bar, as well.

And for the older folk? You’re not excempt from this scolding. Cannabis use in over 60 year olds is on the rise, with the same age group proving to drink twice as much as teenagers. Now, I’m no mathematician, but with teens drinking 7 – 10 drinks per sitting, it seems like there’s some pretty pickled livers in our baby boomers…

So why are we doing the  very serious heavy drinking and the very serious cocaine snorting more than ever?

Is it because we’re like naughty children, being told with a wagging finger that it’s bad for us, egging us on even more? Is it in our nation’s nature to push the limits? Is it because it’s our only high-pressure-steam-release, from our increasingly possessive careers?

Or have we just forgotten how to socialise like normal people, thanks to iPhones?

All I can say is that if Prohibition proved anything (apart from the joy of hidden bookshelf entrances) it’s that indulging our vices will always be an inherent sin of mankind.

Maybe instead of introducing revenue-raising schemes like the Alcopop Tax – proven time and again not to work – we channel funds into recognising WHY we are drinking more, taking more drugs, and staying out late?

New Aussie flick ‘Ruben Guthrie’ is a good start for it’s deadpan portrayal of what is a very sad, very real, very raw problem for most Australians: we drink too much, and we’re only drinking more.

So yes, Australians love a drink. But another fact? Happy people don’t need to write themselves off every weekend.

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“Scott Disick isn’t a monster. He’s an addict.”

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