Kaikohe head girl: locally-led approach best

One of the most forthright, sensible and mature responses to the problems in Kaikohe come from Northland College head girl Aroha Lawrence who said ‘When you’re from Kaikohe people don’t expect much’ (RNZ):

…she knew some of the young people involved at the weekend.

Some came from good homes while others came from broken homes, but they were united in that they had all grown up in Kaikohe and had to deal with any stigma that came with that.

“When you’re from Kaikohe people don’t expect much of you, so you don’t have really big expectations for yourself,” Miss Lawrence said.

“People just think you’re another Māori statistic that’s just going to go on the dole.”

It did not help that there was not much to do in the town, she said.

“A lot of the kids here, they just go hang out at The Mill, which is our local gym. Or just do what those young boys were doing – going around vandalising properties and robbing shops and robbing homes. Because, I don’t know, I guess they think that’s fun because there’s nothing really else to do in Kaikohe.”

Something needed to change but a locally-led approach was best, she said.

However, the same things happened in other towns and cities too and it was important to remember there were a lot of good young people in Kaikohe too, Miss Lawrence said.

“There’s a lot of us that are trying to, you know, make something better for ourselves or make something better for Kaikohe. They shouldn’t judge us by a few rotten eggs.”

There has always been problems with bored young people in rural towns. Kaikohe is in central Northland and has a population of about four and a half thousand.

While Government and Police can and should help the best solutions must come from the locals. It’s their town that their children are trashing.

Alcohol abuse seems to be a big part of the problem. That’s nothing new, but solutions may need to take new approaches.

Teenagers, alcohol and consent

There’s an interview with Dellabarca: Disturbing attitudes and comments not uncommon

A 20 year-old student, Jessica Dellabarca, says it’s not uncommon for teenage boys to take advantage of drunk girls at parties or boast about it online. She says boys need to be educated about consent.

All teenagers need to be educated about complexities of ‘consent’ in relation to sexual activity, and they also need to be better informed about the risks of drinking alcohol, and associating with others who are drinking alcohol.

One of the biggest problems seems to be an inherent lack of respect for others.

Using the term ‘rape culture’ is confronting and can be counter productive to reasoned discussion but there appears to be major problems with rights and responsibilities and lack of respect for the opposite sex.

“If you don’t take advantage of a drunk girl then you’re not a true WC boy” – just heard this on RNZ.

Also from RNZ: Rape comments happen ‘every single day’ – student

Boys talking about wanting to rape drunk girls can probably be heard every day in schools around the country, young women and sex education groups say.

This follows revelations of Facebook postings by two Wellington College students who posted offensive comments about having sex with drunk unconscious girls, and that doing this was a rite of passage.

Wellington College principal Roger Moses said the school was investigating and he was “appalled and disgusted” by the posts.

Mira O’Connor, who is in year 13 at Wellington High School, said a lot of her friends have had bad experiences.

“I would say it’s quite common, and I don’t think any of us are really surprised.

“Really shocked and disappointed that they’d say this, but not surprised.”

There should be a lot of shocked and disappointed people if this is common.

Yes, it’s possible to come up with stories about false complaints and bonkers remorse.

But they are only small parts of what appears to be, still, major and entrenched attitude problems, which when mixed with alcohol can cause a lot of grief.

Teenagers will want to have sex. Teenagers will want to drink alcohol. There’s no way of stopping them wanting either.

So there has to be more done to change attitudes to how both sex and alcohol are handled.


Falling from the heights of rugby stardom

Last week it was reported that ex-Wallaby Dan Vickerman had died – some reports didn’t state a cause but appended ‘helpline’ links, while others were open about it being suicide.

There was discussion about the difficulty many rugby and other sports stars had in transitioning to more normal and more anonymous lives.

It’s the silence that kills us: The sad case of Dan Vickerman

There was also news that Dan Carter had been arrested for drunk driving.

Dan Carter loses sponsorship deal after drink driving charge

NZ should man up like Dan Carter to face our sport and alcohol problem – Steve Stannard

There are still strong and contentious links between alcohol and sport. But alcohol isn’t the only problem drug.

Blues coach Tana Umaga seeking ‘clarity’ around Patrick Tuipulotu’s situation

Blues coach Tana Umaga is remaining tight-lipped on the situation surrounding his absent lock Patrick Tuipulotu after authorities confirmed being alerted to a positive drugs test from the player on the All Blacks’ northern tour last November.

After Fairfax Media revelations that the 24-year-old Blues and All Blacks lock’s career was in limbo following a failed drugs test, both New Zealand Rugby and NZ’s Players’ Association on Sunday confirmed the key facts in the situation.

In a joint statement, NZR and the NZRPA said Tuipulotu was shocked by the result and “working hard to identify the source of the specified substance”.

Patrick Tuipulotu cleared of doping charge

But performance enhancing drugs hover over sports these days. There can be a fine line between banned drugs and legal ‘enhancers’.

Tributes flow for former All Blacks forward Sione Lauaki, dead at 35

Mark Reason: After the death of Dan Vickerman the cult of silence is killing too many of our young men

This week I was contacted by David Briggs, a former Chief and captain of Tonga. He wants to go into things “too much”. I think we should stand up and applaud him. The telling of Briggs’s story shows the late Lauaki respect. It shows that Briggs wants to make a difference for the kids of the future. It shows a great deal of courage.

Briggs, who is now 46 years of age, said, “I started taking creatine in 1998. We were all on creatine. I got huge on it. I went from 114kg to 125kg in a matter of weeks. We didn’t know what we were really taking. We were just told it worked.

“But it didn’t feel right. Our bodies got big, but lots of people’s stomachs were playing up. I got cramps and was getting sick. I cannot be sure, but creatine’s killing all the boys. Jonah reckoned it was part of the reason he was sick.

“I was Lauaki. I got in trouble with the law and alcohol. I don’t drink anymore. I had to give alcohol away or go to jail. I woke up in a cell and went before a judge. Either I changed or I would lose everything.

“I retired from the Chiefs in 2004, but I am still getting headaches. I had heaps of concussions. I suffered depression big-time from those head knocks. I don’t think I will ever be right. I accept I will have depression for the rest of my life and a lot of memory loss. I go to the fridge and think, ‘Shit, what did I need?’ It’s just cos I played rugby without a mouthguard.

“We didn’t think about the future. I’m here now and I’m going, ‘Damn’. The young ones need to be careful. I believe creatine is killing all the boys. I can’t be 100 per cent certain. But all the Pacific Islanders are having problems now.

Former All Black Byron Kelleher arrested in France for domestic violence

And now news involving an ex All Black and an ex Wallaby:

Former All Black Ali Williams arrested on alleged cocaine charge

Former All Black Ali Williams has been sidelined by his club in Paris, after being arrested on suspicion of trying to buy cocaine.

As our Paris correspondent Catherine Field reports, Williams was picked up outside a nightclub along with former Wallabies star James O’Connor.

“He was taken in by police at around 3 o’clock Saturday morning Paris time, the two men were spotted by plain clothed drug enforcement officers, trying to buy cocaine.

Apparently they were trying to pay around 200 euros in cash for the cocaine.”

As Field reports, his club Racing has already put him on suspension.

“They say that they want to respect the presumption of innocence- he’s only been charged, he hasn’t been been found guilty of this crime yet, however, they go on in the statement to say this would be a major violation of the clubs ethics.”

Presumption of innocence unless proven guilty – but I think France has a difference system of justice.

France has been a very lucrative place to go for retired international rugby players. It also seems to be a risky place to go, where heaps of money and leisure time seems to easily lead to trouble.

Forced drug and alcohol rehab

I thought that a basic requirement of successful drug and alcohol rehabilitation was the willingness and determination of the addicts to beat their addiction. But a new law may force people into rehabilitation.

Stuff: New law could force more drug and alcohol addicts into compulsory rehabilitation

More drug and alcohol addicts could be forced into treatment programmes as the result of a recent law change, which has raised questions about whether rehabilitation centres will be able to cope.

The Substance Addiction Act became law last week. It simplifies the process for police, health services and loved ones to force those locked in a cycle of substance abuse into compulsory treatment.

The new law allows any third party to apply for a person to have compulsory treatment, but it must be signed off by an approved specialist. The law specifies addicts can only be held up to 16 weeks.

More and better rehabilitation is essential, but forcing it is a questionable approach.

You may be able to lead a junkie to rehab but you can’t make them cooperate.

Funding and facilities are also issues.

Wellington addiction clinician Roger Brooking said is was unclear whether the health sector could cope with a spike in rehab patients given there were only four approved centres across the country, and those centres were already full.

“If somebody tried to get someone treated under that act now, I have no idea where they would go.”

Dr Vanessa Caldwell, from the National Committee for Addiction Treatment and addictions workforce agency Matua Raki, said more addicts would likely end up getting treatment under the new law.

If adequate facilities are available.

About 100 addicts are already detained in compulsory treatment in this country. There are four approved centres  – in Auckland, Wellington, Dunedin and Christchurch – but only two are accepting new patients, Caldwell said.

Patients detained under the new act would not be locked up, she said.

“We don’t really have access to locked facilities in New Zealand. When we talk about ‘detained’ it means they’re there when they don’t want to be.”

And may not stay.

In 2015, Christchurch woman Louise Litchfield spoke of her two failed attempts to get help for her 28-year-old daughter’s methamphetamine and codeine-based drug addiction under the 1966 act.

A judge declined her request both times, as her daughter successfully defended herself. Litchfield gave up a third time.

“One judge told me I was trying to take away my daughter’s freedom and I was offending the Human Rights Act,” she said.

So now someone like this can be forced against their will? How will that work?

Civil liberties lawyer Michael Bott said involuntary treatment should be used as a last resort in cases where voluntary methods had failed.

“Chemical addictions are huge and powerful and corrupt someone’s rational thinking.”

If they don’t want to be rehabilitated then they probably won’t.

But he believed a chronic underfunding of alcohol and drug treatment programmes was also a problem that needed addressing, as many failed to address the root cause.

“There are multi-facted reasons for people turning to alcohol and until we realise that … all we’re going to be doing is parking ambulances at the bottom of the cliff.”

Have adequate additional resources been worked out before the law was changed? It doesn’t look like it.


* Any third party can apply for a person to receive compulsory treatment, but it must be signed off by a specialist.

* The patient must have a severe substance addiction and their capacity to make informed decisions about treatment must be severely impaired.

* Appropriate treatment must be available, meaning there needs to be capacity at a detox facility.

Capacity means budgets and facilities and staff. Surely that should have been dealt with first.

Police checkpoint targeting meeting attendees

Stuff reports that Police admit using checkpoint to target euthanasia meeting attendees

Police have admitted they used a breath-testing checkpoint to target people who had attended an Exit International euthanasia meeting.

The move has been criticised as an “unlawful checkpoint to interrogate pensioners” by one lawyer, while another said it was probably a breach of police powers. 

A complaint has already been laid with the Independent Police Conduct Authority about the officers’ actions in Lower Hutt earlier this month, and it is understood at least one other will be laid in coming days.

If unlawful this is bad, but even if it isn’t unlawful this is an awful action targeting people who legally attended a meeting.

It is understood police were originally investigating on behalf of a coroner looking into a death, suspected to be self-inflicted.

But when police decided to turn the investigation into a criminal operation, they asked a coroner if they could put the coronial investigation on hold.

Questions put to police late last week and over Labour Weekend went unanswered. But on Wednesday, Inspector Chris Bensemann supplied a written statement confirming the checkpoint was to “identify people attending an Exit International meeting in Lower Hutt”.

He said police had a duty of care and a “responsibility to the community to investigate any situation where we have reasonable grounds to suspect that persons are being assisted in the commission of suicide”.

“Police are responsible for enforcing New Zealand’s laws, and currently suicide or encouraging/helping someone to commit suicide is illegal in New Zealand.”

I don’t think committing suicide is illegal.

Regardless, using alcohol checkpoints for other purposes, effectively detaining and questioning people just because of a meeting they had attended, is quite disturbing.

He confirmed the operation was conducted via a breath-testing checkpoint near the location of the meeting.

“Information gathered through the checkpoint has enabled police to provide support and information to those people who we had reason to believe may be contemplating suicide.”

That’s way outside the allowable uses for checkpoints.


‘Coward’s punch’ law

Winston Peters announced last week that a ‘one-punch’ assault should be subject to a separate law.

‘King Hit’ Sentences Far Too Light

Perpetrators of “King hits” should be sentenced to a minimum of eight years if their victims are killed, says New Zealand First.

“We want to send a message. Land one of these cowardly punches, take a life, and you’re behind bars a long time,” New Zealand First Leader and MP for Northland Rt Hon Winston Peters said in a speech to the Police Association in Wellington today.

“There have been too many cases of innocent people dying from a ‘King hit’. Good people have been killed. Families and friends are suffering.

“The ‘King hit’ punch will be defined in law as ‘an event  that is unexpected and unprovoked but of such force to the head that it is likely to cause incapacitation, injury or death’.

“New Zealand First will ensure the length of the sentence will send a message that society will not accept this level of violence,” says Mr Peters.

Calling this type of assault a ‘king hit’ is a mistake. It’s a very cowardly sort of attack.

Is a special law for it necessary, beyond trying to appease a populist support base?

Manslaughter can already result in up to a life sentence, although now sometimes shorter sentences are given. Recently an Invercargill sentenced a ‘man’ to 22 months in prison. Would a longer sentence achieve anything?

Singling out one sort of assault could lead to anomalies in charging and sentencing.

Why is one punch worse than two punches? Two punches followed by a few kicks in the head? Driving a vehicle into a crowd?

Are one-punch sentences too light relative to other assaults? Or is singling them out a  knee-jerk reaction, or trying to appeal to the ‘lock-em-up crowd?

The Otago Daily Times looks at this policy in today’s editorial The full force of the law?

Mr Peters’ king-hit policy must be viewed with eyes wide open, however. This is already election season and the promises, baits, bribes and face-savers are coming in thick and fast: everything from more police, more houses and more affordable houses to less immigration and tax cuts. Crime and punishment is a favourite, and it is all too easy to promote policies which prey on fear and highlight retribution in order to make political mileage.

The jury is still out on the effectiveness of one-punch laws as a deterrent. Is our current legislation really not up to the task? There is undoubtedly debate around sentencing in some cases, but there are also serious questions over whether a one-size-fits-all hard-line approach is desirable. And, if attitudes towards alcohol and issues with anger are at the root of the problem, is such a policy anything more than an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff?

It is clear something needs to be done about alcohol-fuelled violence within our society. For years this newspaper has carried headlines which clearly show the prevalence of the problem, where nights out have resulted in bar fights and street brawls. Indeed, it sometimes seems this is the point of a night out for some.

Although a “quick fix” may be desirable, surely a holistic approach is more sustainable. Populist policy may tick the punishment box, but it doesn’t address the cocktail of other factors driving these crimes: alcohol availability and price, our culture of excess and permissiveness, our “hard-man” image, our focus on rights over responsibilities, and our latent anger and aggression.

All must surely be part of the mix if we are to make a meaningful difference – and help save lives.

Alcohol abuse and violence, especially when combined, is a very serious problem in New Zealand. It is deep rooted in our society, complex and  and difficult to deal with. Singling out one very narrow and infrequent type of assault may attract some votes but it is a very narrow, lazy, populist approach.

It will take a lot more than increasing sentences on specific occasional crimes to address mindless violence and alcohol abuse. Cowards who get pissed don’t care about the consequences for either themselves or their victims.

The message that Winston is sending will do little if anything to improve a problem. It looks like a cynical message to potential voters, not to thugs.

Treasury: alcohol and tobacco more harm than cannabis

A Treasury document obtained after an OIA request be a Nelson lawyer gives estimated costs of policing cannabis and potential tax revenue, and says that “the harm caused by alcohol and tobacco was much worse than what’s caused by drugs like cannabis”.

NZ Herald: Cannabis tax could be $150m

An internal Treasury document on New Zealand’s drug policy shows the Government could be earning $150 million from taxing cannabis and saving taxpayers $400 million through reduced policing costs.

The brainstorming notes, from 2013, have been publicly released after an Official Information Act request from Nelson lawyer Sue Grey to Finance Minister Bill English.

Grey said the notes confirmed what was well-known in other sectors – that the harm caused by alcohol and tobacco was much worse than what’s caused by drugs like cannabis.

Relative harm of alcohol and tobacco compared to cannabis is fairly well known.

Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell agreed, saying the reason there’s been no action is because politicians are too scared to talk about the “taboo” subject of drugs.

He said we should be willing to look at alternatives for New Zealand and admit, as the Treasury notes do, that the current system isn’t working.

Bell said the notes stated prohibition wasn’t working and cannabis was not a gateway drug.

He said while politicians did not like talking about drug policy, they were now misreading the public mood and people were ready to have this discussion.

I don’t think the National party and it’s leaders care about the public mood on cannabis. They simply don’t want to address the obvious issues and public sentiment.

English said the brainstorm notes were merely a discussion and were not official Treasury opinion.

That’s disappointing but predictable fobbing off by English. The document wasn’t anyone’s opinion, it was stating well known facts, and estimated costs and potential revenue.

It was advice that English and National don’t want to hear because they don’t want to do anything about the large cannabis problem.

Both medical cannabis products and recreational use are issues with growing profiles. Ignoring public opinion may be costly for National – as a third term Government they are facing rising dissatisfaction with a failure to take seriously issues of public significance.

It’s quite possible that next election cannabis could be the toke that breaks the Government’s back.

Social media reducing teen pregnancies?

Suggestions have been made that large falls in teenage pregnancy rates, that have coincided with a surge in online activity, may have in part been affected by the use of social media.

The Herald reports in Fall in teen pregnancy linked with time on net that the teenage pregnancy rate has dropped markedly since 2007, the year attributed as being the start of the social media surge.

  • 2007: 4955 teen pregnancies
  • 2015: 2865 teen pregnancies

…and “a large majority of those were to 18- and 19-year-olds”.

It will be hard to determine why there has been such a large reduction.

Some researchers have credited the stark drop to better access to contraception, better sex education and better parenting.

They are all likely to have played a part.

Others, however, have suggested social media may have played a part.

A leading paediatrics expert, University of Auckland Associate Professor Simon Denny, said it was possible social media had contributed to a reduction in “risk behaviours” including teenagers having unprotected sex.

“What we have seen is this reduction and at the same time we have had this explosion in social media,” Dr Denny said.

“There are some suggestions that young people are spending more time inside rather than going outside and engaging in risk behaviours but there is no hard evidence on this at this point.

“The context is that it is not just [risky sexual behaviour] that is reducing, it is all of the … risk behaviours that you have to engage in outside of the home.”

Another factor that may or may not be related is another big reduction – teenage alcohol consumption.

The stark reduction in teenagers using alcohol could be another factor behind the decrease in pregnancies because alcohol encouraged other risk behaviours such as unprotected sex, Dr Denny said.

It’s very likely that a reduction in alcohol consumption has played a significant role in safer sex.

It’s possible that increased use of social media has contributed to both safer sex and safer drinking – so social media may have had both a direct and an indirect effect.

“The interesting thing is that this is a global phenomenon. Everywhere you look, Australia, Ireland, the UK – all the equivalent OECD countries are seeing the same drop in youth risk behaviours.”

Britain’s Telegraph newspaper…reported teenage pregnancies in England and Wales had dropped by 46 per cent since 2007 and were now at the lowest level since records began almost 50 years ago.

Some interesting comparisons:

Rates of teenage pregnancy in New Zealand (18.7 per 1000 population) is far lower than the United States (24.2) and United Kingdom (23.3), but higher than Australia (13).

There’s quite big differences. But all seem to be dropping.

“It takes a brave man to be sober in New Zealand”

Laura McQuillan at Stuff profiles two men, one who often uses many drugs, some of them illegal, and another who says he has given up drinking alcohol and is quoted as claiming it takes a brave man to be sober in New Zealand”.

The extreme ends of drug and alcohol use

Kiwis have a well-known reputation for drinking, but it’s a habit that’s changing. While many people are trying something harder, others are swearing off the sauce. Laura McQuillan spoke to two men at the extreme ends of the usage spectrum about finding their own limits.

The first man (real name not used)…

…uses drugs most weekends, and he’s tried a lot of what’s out there: marijuana, MDMA, LSD, ketamine and magic mushrooms, prescription-only painkillers, “heaps and heaps of Ritalin”, and synthetic psychadelics like 2C-B and 2C-E

The 24-year-old also drinks up to four nights a week – usually about six standard drinks at a time, or up to 10 drinks on weekends – and says the hangover from alcohol is far worse than a drug come-down.

Rob’s friends are well aware of his drug-use, but his workmates have no idea: “You would never do drugs the day before work.”

He’s never been deterred by the illegality of drugs – which he’s been using since age 17.

So he thinks that his drug taking doesn’t affect his working days.

“Pretty much since I started doing drugs that weren’t weed, I’ve had one guy that I’ve got s*** off, and I basically assume that if I get it from somebody else then it won’t be exactly what I want,” he says.

“I just don’t think it’s a good idea to put something in your body if you don’t know exactly what it is.”

The Drug Foundation agrees – and it says there are better ways to keep users safe than the current zero-tolerance approach to drugs.

Executive director Ross Bell suggests decriminalisation – starting with cannabis – and “regulated sales under tight control” would be an improved approach.

Rob says he’d definitely be keen to buy drugs through a regulated market.

Many drug users may not be as careful as ‘Rob’ claims he is.

The second man profiled, Jackson Wood, was a drinker but has now stopped.

He’s not alone: in last year’s Global Drug Survey, just under a third of Kiwi respondents said they planned to drink less over the following 12 months.

I drink much less alcohol than I did when I was 17-20 years old. I don’t think that’s uncommon.

Only 4.9 per cent had any plans to seek help in doing so.

Most people can probably make drinking decisions on their own. People afflicted with alcoholism need help but often won’t seek help or heed help.

Support was crucial for Jackson Wood when he decided to give up alcohol for good, after one “righteous” night out in Wellington where he spent $1000, and ended up “with vomit, and horrible feelings of despair and regret”.

It was a wake-up call.

“I realised that there were problems with my behaviour throughout almost 10 years that could always be traced back to my drinking – being unreliable as a friend was a big one; the way that I dealt with women in my relationships,” the 30-year-old says.

I had a few ‘wake up’ calls but was able to figure things out and deal with them myself.

With a background in alcohol and drug policy, and a support network around him, Wood says sobriety isn’t as challenging as many people think.

Yet in a country famous for its binge-drinking peer-pressure, plenty take issue with it: he’s regularly told “just have one drink”, or called “a pussy”.

Wood says he spent 15 minutes explaining his sobriety to an inebriated wedding-goer, who eventually came around to the idea, and told him: “it takes a brave man to be sober in New Zealand”.

Wood agrees with that drunken wisdom.

“To admit that you’ve got a problem and to take action to stop it, I think anyone – whether it’s drinking or drugs, or any behaviour that has a negative impact – it does take bravery to face up to that fact, to try and make amends for the bad s*** that you’ve done.”

Maybe some people think it takes bravery to quit drinking but I think it’s just common sense and self determination.

When I don’t want to drink alcohol I just don’t, and if I’m offered it when I don’t want it I just decline the offer.

I’ve never had a problem with this. I remember when I was still a teen in the mid seventies when I started to have no-alcohol weeks because I didn’t feel like a continuous drinking lifestyle.

Sometimes in very social situations (usually involving sport) people offered me drinks and asked why I declined and I just told them I didn’t feel like drinking alcohol at that time. Some were a bit puzzled but I never felt pressured and was never called a pussy.

Sport was one of the reasons why I wanted to drink less and sometimes nothing, I wanted to be as fit as possible and knew alcohol wasn’t good for sports performance. This is common now.

It’s actually easy being sober for me. It’s the default and most common condition for most people. We choose what we eat and drink and any substances we may or may not take.

I didn’t feel brave nor a need to be brave, I simply did as I wanted and didn’t do what I didn’t want. Some people may not be as strong willed perhaps. But I suspect most of us are fortunate to be capable of making our own decisions without caring what other people suggest or think.


Debate continues on alcohol and violence

Following the previous post  Alcohol, violence and inhibitions here are more comments on the alcohol and violence debate at The Standard post Not all research is created equal.

Psycho Milt:

“This report’s lie by omission is that alcohol weakens those inhibitions.”

What lie by omission? First, saying that alcohol lowers inhibitions is a very different thing from saying that alcohol causes violence. Second, Fox’s statement “violent people were more likely to act violently in certain situations” assumes the situation “inhibitions lowered by alcohol.” What exactly is the complaint about Fox’s research, other than that you don’t like the resulting recommendations?


“First, saying that alcohol lowers inhibitions is a very different thing from saying that alcohol causes violence.”

Tell that to the Police, Ambulance staff, and staff in Hospital Emergency rooms around the country. You might also try telling that to all the battered women, beaten by intoxicated partners.
It’s not the greatest leap of reason, to move from
“Intoxication lowers inhibitions” to
“Intoxication increases the propensity for those with a violent disposition to behave violently”.
Had Fox actually said that, then the report would not have been published, because it would have admitted that alcohol was a prime factor in many instances of violent behaviour. But No! we have the weasel words
“violent people were more likely to act violently in certain situations”
The lie is in the deliberate omission that alcohol is involved.

But Macro has omitted many things that Fox wrote in her report about alcohol’s involvement.

Psycho Milt:

Her point is that the person’s culture and personality bestowing them with a predisposition to violence is the prime factor, so she’s hardly likely to declare alcohol the prime factor. Alcohol is incidental, contributing no more than a lowering of inhibitions. It’s true that in some people, the lowering of inhibitions is a very bad idea because their true selves are malicious and violent, but the bottom line is that the problem isn’t the recreational drug, it’s the loathsome creature using it. Policy that directs itself to the drug rather than the loathsome creature is a waste of effort.


“There is overwhelming historical and cross-cultural evidence that people learn not only how to drink but how to be affected by drink through a process of socialisation…Numerous experiments conducted under strictly controlled conditions (double-blind, with placebos) on a wide range of subjects and in different cultures have demonstrated that both mood and actions are affected far more by what people think they have drunk than by what they have actually drunk…In simple terms, this means that people who expect drinking to result in violence become aggressive; those who expect it to make them feel sexy become amorous; those who view it as disinhibiting are demonstrative. If behaviour reflects expectations, then a society gets the drunks it deserves.”

Heath, D.B. (1998). Cultural variations among drinking patterns. In M.Grant and J.Litvak (eds.), Drinking Patterns and their Consequences. Washington: Taylor & Francis.

Magisterium then explains the different approaches to alcohol and violence from a health perspective versus a behavioural perspective:

There is a big divide between people studying alcohol from a health perspective and people studying alcohol from a behavioural perspective. The former tend to have as a baseline the position that alcohol is a poison and poisons are bad for your health so we should research alcohol’s health impacts; the latter tend to have as a baseline the position that drinking alcohol is something that people do and what people do is interesting so we should research the things that people do with and without alcohol.

Thus we have Doctor of Anthropology Anne Fox publishing a paper that says “alcohol doesn’t cause violence, violent people cause violence” so Miss Nicki Jackson, Auckland Uni PhD student in the Dept of Health and Medical Science calls the report “completely flawed”. These two people speak different languages, and I wonder why the Herald contacted a person working academically in the field of health and medicine to comment on a report in the field of human behaviour.

In the world of human behaviour and how alcohol affects it, the defining work of academic scholarship is MacAndrew, C. and Edgerton, R. (2003) “Drunken Comportment: A Social Explanation”. Aldine, Chicago. If you haven’t read it and you’re not familiar with its conclusions then you really shouldn’t be making claims on how alcohol affects people’s behaviour. Because some very clever people have done decades of research involving people and cultures all over the world and they know more about this shit than you, and their findings have been critiqued and dissected and reproduced by other very clever people. And if you don’t know what conclusions all that research produced then you really shouldn’t go around claiming that alcohol causes violence, because you’re like someone claiming vaccines cause autism because everyone knows that because you saw it on Facebook.

Just about all anthropological research arrives at the same conclusion (I say most because I haven’t read every single paper in the world, and who knows one might disagree, but I have yet to find it): the way alcohol affects human behaviour is entirely cultural. People who get drunk don’t become violent as a matter of course; rather, people who get drunk act the way they have learned to act when drunk, or they act the way they think they can get away with while drunk, and in some cultures that means violence.

Basically, anyone who’s done any research on drunken behaviour will be completely unsurprised by Dr Fox’s research paper because, well, it just confirms everything that every other anthropological study on the topic says. They all reach the same conclusion: alcohol doesn’t cause violence.

Public health professionals all cringe when such papers are published because, like I said at the start, they’re coming from a position of ALCOHOL BAD and anything that says drinking alcohol can be a completely pleasant and uncontroversial experience for all involved is tantamount to heresy in that academic field.

A One News report had slammed Fox’s report in Lion’s research suggesting booze has little relation to violence slammed by academics

The report was funded by booze company Lion and took just seven weeks of research, suggesting alcohol has little to do with violent behaviour.

Gristle picked up on this:

7 weeks to undertake research and write a report is pretty good going. My guess is there was no research but reinterpretation of other people’s research. I doubt the report went through the normal peer reviewing by suitable qualified people.

this sounds like the “tobacco research” where the industry purposely created dubious research and skilfully placed it in the media to create the impression that the science was not settled and no regulation was required. This same approach has occurred with lead in petrol, car safety, CFCs, global warming.

The media is being played. It is a fundamental failing of the media not to have developed skills and methods to handle scientific debate and the role of self interested corporates and their supporting institutions and funded science.

It seems to me that the media can be played by different sides of the debate.

Psycho Milt addressed the 7 week diss.

The 7 weeks involved a team of researchers looking specifically at the Aus/NZ environment. There’d already been an extensive literature review, not to mention the 20 years she’d spent researching alcohol use in non-Aus/NZ situations. Writing the report took a further year.

The report states: Fieldwork commencing in July 2013. The paper was finalised in January 2015.

That’s 18 months rather than 7 weeks.


Of course one of the tests of research is to see how often it is referenced by leading researchers in the field. Unfortunately this process takes years.

And it is more likely to be referenced by researchers who agree with the behavioural approach to the problem rather than those who have a health perspective.


this sounds like the “tobacco research” where the industry purposely created dubious research and skilfully placed it in the media to create the impression that the science was not settled and no regulation was required

No, it pretty much just confirms what every other anthropological study of the subject has concluded. It’s an entirely uncontroversial paper containing no real surprises.


There is nothing in the Fox Report to indicate that it has undergone anything like a peer-review. There are many assertions that are not backed up with literature citations but simply rely on her personal beliefs and experience and are subjectively worded.

”Elsewhere in this paper I acknowledge that alcohol has a very real physiological effect, but based on decades of research in the field, I am convinced that these physiological effects in no way determine a behavioural response.” [p# 15]

”As an anthropologist who has spent thousands of hours observing drunken behaviour, I can confidently assert that it is as predictable as any other ritually governed human behaviour.” [p# 16]


This is a pretty good metasummary of the current understanding of drunken behaviour, drawing on the conclusions of hundreds of peer-reviewed papers:


TLDR? Everyone concludes the same thing as Dr Fox.


Looks interesting, thank you; will read later if you don’t mind. I do note, in passing, that the Foreword is dated 1998.

Who’s “Everyone”? Am I supposed to take this literally, in which case it is clearly incorrect?

The debate on alcohol and violence will no doubt continue, as will research.

Some questions I have from all of this:

  • If alcohol causes violence why are most people who drink alcohol not violent when drinking?
  • If alcohol causes violence are do some people only violent some times when they are drinking alcohol?
  • Why are people who are violent when drinking alcohol also violent when they are not drinking alcohol?
  • Were humans non-violent before alcohol use began (thought to be about 9,000 years ago).
  • Were Maori and other native populations non-violent before alcohol was introduced by Europeans?
  • If we had alcohol prohibition would violence reduce?

I have never become violent or felt like being violent when drinking alcohol.

Fox’s study report: Understanding behaviour in the Australian and New Zealand night-time economies

Frequently asked questions on alcohol use at CDC.