Disturbing alcohol emergency

Disturbing alcohol emergency

I would like to share my first hand experience of alcohol related violence working as an Emergency Specialist on the North Coast of NSW

Probably the worse part of my job and by far the most disturbing for me is telling the parents, partners and children that their loved one has died or will never wake up because of a traumatic brain injury. The  crys of grieving families ring through the corridors of the emergency department too frequently . All too often the accident was preventable and the culprit was  alcohol. As I write this I can still hear them, and in my gut I feel their pain, yet in no way to the wrenching extent they endure.

A common story is this … It starts off as a normal festive Friday or Saturday night, out with a group of friends, often having rapidly consumed more than 12 standard alcoholic drinks. Usually after midnight, something happens…. a brawl in a venue or on the street over something trivial, a difference of opinion, a snide remark, glance, or just an unprovoked attack.

1 punch is all it takes and I have witnessed first-hand, the 1 punch that has killed. If not a punch then a weapon, or falling off a balcony, or diving into a shallow pool, or the drunk driver and young passengers. These things would not happen if the people were not highly intoxicated. This means that these deaths and other horrific irreparable injuries are preventable.

Death is like a stone thrown in a pond. The ripple is immense, spreads in all directions, affects many people and continues for decades. Does anyone ever get over the death of someone they love ? Is the anguish, frustration, blame or anger even greater when the cause was so meaningless and preventable?

In Australia around 5 young people die each week from preventable alcohol related harms  Ref 1 .That’s 5 too many. I don’t want it to be my child and I don’t want to have to tell you it’s yours.

It is simply just not a lack of individual patron responsibility. Neither is it the “drugs”. Political leaders, parents, the alcohol industry and the community must all collaborate to end this senseless carnage.

In Newcastle in 2008 late trading licensed venues closed 2 hours earlier. This was the primary contributor to nearly a 40% plummet in alcohol related assaults that is estimated to have prevented well over 2,000 young people from being bashed on their streets at night.  Ref 2. Imagine if that occurred in Byron Bay were we have the 3rd highest number of alcohol related assaults in NSW. Imagine if this occurred Australia wide. Could such a simple, cost saving measure lead to 5 less grieving families per week?

Dr Blake Eddington B.Med. FACEM.

Byron Bay, NSW

These are the personal views of the author and do not reflect those of any other organisation


1. Young people and alcohol

2. Effects of restricting pub closing times on night-time assaults in an Australian city