Drug and Alcohol Intoxication and Subsequent Harm in night-time Entertainment Districts (DASHED) investigated the harms associated with alcohol across Canberra and Hobart between April and December 2015.
Best practice in responding to individuals affected by drugs and alcohol
A considerable proportion of a police officer’s time involves interactions with persons who are intoxicated or under the influence of alcohol and other drugs.
Patron Offending and Intoxication in Night-Time Entertainment Districts (POINTED) is a massive project which interviewed almost 7000 patrons between November 2011 to June 2012, and conduct almost 900 hours of hours of observation of patrons in pubs and clubs. Entertainment precincts surveyed included King Street and Prahran in Melbourne, Northbridge in Perth, Kings Cross and Darling Harbour in Sydney and the Wollongong and Geelong night-time entertainment districts. The project showed that across Australia, after 1am, almost 30 percent of 6500 patrons tested had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of above 0.1 with the highest averages in Geelong and Perth. An average of 65% reported pre-drinking (or pre-loading) before to going out and the main reason to pre-load was to save money. Consuming five or six drinks before going to the pub indicated a higher risk of heavy alcohol consumption and risky behaviour, such as drink driving. The study also showed a high propensity for the use of high energy drinks (HED) – either in an alcohol mix or separate, and HED users generally had a higher BAC reading and experienced more aggression and injury. Most HED users had, on average, exceeded the daily recommended dose by 11pm. Finally, around one in four people are believed to have used drugs. This study was the first of its kind to use drug swabs to validate people own reports. It found between 1 and 2 people in every five had used drugs, but that one in four was the most likely average across the country. The main drugs admitted to were cannabis, amphetamines and ecstasy. Suggested policy directions from the study include: alcohol companies pay for health warning TV advertisements directly after the screening of pro-alcohol ads; ceasing the sales of high energy drinks from 10pm; the imposition of tighter trading hour restrictions; ceasing the sale of alcohol in venues an hour before closing; increasing the price of alcohol through taxation (preferably based on volume and increasing according to beverage strength) to include pre-packaged alcohol used for preloading, to allow for specific expenditure on measures that ameliorate harm, and; the banning of two for one, and bulk discount alcohol deals. [Revised October 2013]
The ‘Dealing with alcohol-related harm and the night-time economy (DANTE)’ study compared the effectiveness of alcohol-related crime prevention measures put in place between 2005 and 2010 through licensing regulation in Newcastle (NSW) and the voluntary programs run in Geelong (Victoria). The study reviewed hospital, police and ambulance records to evaluate the rates of alcohol-related harm. 4000 patron interviews and 129 unannounced venue observations were undertaken and community attitudes towards alcohol-related harm and the available policy options were also canvassed. Across this very large range of data, the key findings were that a substantial amount of harm was associated with pre-drinking and that measures that dealt directly with alcohol consumption employed in Newcastle, such as restricted trading hours, were the most effective in reducing alcohol-related crime. The study found such measures need to be implemented across all venues, rather than just a specific venues to ensure a level-playing field for business and act as a vehicle for culture change amongst patrons. A range of interventions analysed in the study were found ineffective, including: the introduction of ID scanners, improved communication between venues and police and education campaigns (which were voluntary in Geelong). Strong, consistent policing using substantial personal fines was also found effective, but requires policing levels which are seldom sustained. Illicit drug use is fairly low, but does predict greater experience of violence and harm. The community surveys revealed that most people believed alcohol was a problem in their entertainment precincts and that nine out of ten people believed licenced venues should shut by 3am. There was similar support for more police on the street. The study concluded that while night-time economies, such as nightclubs and bars, are an important part of our urban and regional centres they are also places where violence and injury occur at great cost to the community. Using policies based on the evidence of this and other independent research can help create safe and vibrant night-time entertainment districts.