Despite boasting low alcohol consumption rates compared to other nations, binge drinking — a dangerous form of alcohol abuse — is on the rise in Hong Kong. Binge drinking is the consumption of large amounts of alcohol (typically four or more drinks) over a short period of time — resulting in intoxication.
But what does the binge drinking situation actually look like in Hong Kong? Who is drinking excessively and what is fuelling the trend? Taking a closer look at these questions could help determine effective measures to stop the increase, and curb the alcohol-related consequences of excessive drinking.
Hong Kong’s Binge Drinking Youth
Reliable long-term research on the rates of binge drinking in Hong Kong is lacking. However, one area in which current research shows a trend of increased alcohol consumption is amongst university students. Some attribute this increase to an influx of foreign students from Europe and America bringing their own country’s drinking cultures to Hong Kong. But increased binge drinking has not only foreign influence to blame, alcohol companies hosting large promotional events on campuses must not be overlooked.
These promotional events combined with Hong Kong students’ lack of knowledge about the dangers of alcohol puts them at risk for drinking excessively. Students positively associate alcohol with relaxation and their ability to talk more openly, but report a limited perception of negative consequences.
Binge drinking is commonly associated with university students around the world and some believe it was only a matter of time before it made its way to those countries in which it was not yet the norm. However, the rise of alcohol abuse amongst underage teens in Hong Kong is an equally, if not more serious concern. Bar owners are using security to crack down on underage drinkers within their premises, but remain quite concerned with young people drinking on the streets surrounding popular night clubs. The lack of regulation in selling alcohol to underage youth at convenience stores allows many teens to easily obtain alcohol.
Stories of kids drinking to the point of tears, delusion, and passing out are becoming more and more common at large events, holidays, and on the streets surrounding Hong Kong’s popular night life. Despite a culture that traditionally frowns upon drinking excessively, Hong Kong’s youth are under a lot of pressure to perform — and when things do not go well they are increasingly turning to alcohol to numb the shame, open up to friends, and escape.
The Dangers of Binge Drinking
Binge drinking does not only result in a hangover. Drinking excessively poses many dangers — dangers that are often overlooked by young people seeking quick thrills. Other dangers of drinking excessively include:
- Accidental injuries
- Alcohol poisoning
- Risky sexual behaviour
- Poor academic and work performance
- Relationship problems
- Damage to overall health, brain development, and emotional well-being
Hong Kong has seen an increase in the number of underage teens admitted to hospital due to alcohol-related complications. This highlights the severity of problems caused by excessive drinking; a frightening reality for many young people and their families.
Those who start drinking at an early age are also more at risk for developing alcoholism and drug abuse disorders. Drinking excessively increases the risk for future dependence on alcohol — which is why prevention of alcohol abuse and education about the harmful effects of alcohol is imperative to reduce the long-term impacts of alcohol use on both the individual and society as a whole.
Putting a Stop to Binge Drinking in Hong Kong
This widespread pattern of alcohol abuse is problematic and can have devastating consequences. The increased popularity of drinking – especially amongst Hong Kong’s young people – has officials considering options to curb the trend.
In their search for answers, the government is contemplating reinstating the wine tax that was abolished in 2008. Eliminating the wine tax fuelled a boom in Hong Kong’s wine industry, but some still assert that the tax elimination was not the reason for the boom, and that reinstating this tax will not address the problem of binge drinking. Prices of wine, they say, did not reduce dramatically with the tax elimination, but what it did do, was spark an interest in wine amongst Hong Kong’s adults.
Those in the wine industry suggest that their customers are seeking sophistication and taste rather than intoxication and people are less likely to binge drink wine — therefore arguing that reinstating the wine tax is not the answer. However, studies indicate that raising alcohol costs and taxes is an effective measure for controlling drinking rates.
Another option being considered is tightening the control over alcohol advertisements, specifically those targeting young people and encouraging a culture of drinking to excess. While Hong Kong doesn’t have a minimum drinking age, it is illegal to sell alcohol to people under 18 years old – a law that is loosely enforced. Many underage buyers can easily obtain alcohol from convenience stores – which is something that need to change if Hong Kong truly wants to curb this epidemic. In the meantime, however, more and more Hong Kong residents are becoming addicted to alcohol – and don’t always know where to get treatment.
The Cabin Hong Kong: Outpatient Addiction Treatment
Many leaders in Hong Kong blame the lack of addiction treatment options as a main cause of the rising alcohol abuse problem. The Cabin’s rehab in Hong Kong, which opened in February 2015, is leading the way in effective treatment for those in need. Our treatment method combines the best aspects of 12 Steps, our own Recovery Zones, Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT), and mindfulness meditation to create a holistic and integrative approach to addiction recovery. Treatment includes individual one-on-one therapy with a trained and specialised addiction counsellor, plus group sessions that offer support through peer interaction.
This new outpatient addiction treatment centre offers confidential, accessible, and effective treatment for a range of addictions including alcohol, drug, and process (gambling, compulsive internet use, sexual) addictions. Outpatient treatment allows people to continue attending work or school and maintain family responsibilities while getting the help they need.
If you are concerned about a loved one who is binge drinking or abusing drugs, contact us today for a consultation.