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Last Updated: Monday, 12 February 2007, 11:48 GMT
Alcohol 'time-bomb' of Aborigines
By Phil Mercer
BBC, Sydney

Aborigine neighbourhood
Poverty and lack of opportunities are big factors, researchers say
A report from one of Australia's most respected research bodies has shown that alcohol abuse claims the life of an Aborigine every 38 hours.

Suicide is the greatest cause of death among intoxicated indigenous men; for women it is liver cirrhosis or strokes.

Australia's National Drug and Research Institute has described the situation as "very bleak".

The Aborigines are twice as likely to die from the effects of alcohol as their non-indigenous counterparts.

Alcohol abuse in many remote Aboriginal communities is like a plague. It is wiping out on average one indigenous Australian every day-and-a-half.

Most women die of liver damage. Many others suffer haemorrhagic strokes or bleeding in the brain which can be caused by excessive binge drinking.

Australia's National Drug and Research Institute has found that that sort of abuse has caused high rates of suicide among Aboriginal men.

Injuries from assaults and car accidents accounted for other deaths.

'Exploded time-bomb'

Researcher Dr Tanya Chikritzhs says many Aborigines turn to alcohol because they feel neglected by the rest of society.

"There's so much poverty and unemployment and lack of health services, lack of decent education," Dr Chikritzhs said.

"They all add up to what we call social determinants which influence the likelihood of somebody coming up against alcohol or drugs or tobacco for that matter."

The picture varies greatly around the country.

In New South Wales, the number of alcohol-related deaths among Aborigines has stabilised, partly because of the availability of medical treatment and counselling.

In remote parts of Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory that sort of help is often very thin on the ground.

Researchers have described the situation in some isolated settlements as a time-bomb that has already exploded which will continue to spread misery for years to come.

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