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October's sober time

Amanda Tiller and Shanna Dirkin share an orange juice in preparation for Ocsober.
Amanda Tiller and Shanna Dirkin share an orange juice in preparation for Ocsober. Warren Lynam

PINK elephants have long been associated with drunks but a gold and brown giraffe called Healthy Harold left a lasting impression of sobriety on Caloundra's Rachel Johnson.

The 19-year-old has decided to stay sober in October as part of Life Education Australia's Ocsober campaign.

Ocsober participants in 13 countries agree to give up alcohol for a month to raise funds for drug and alcohol education programs in schools.

Life Education CEO Michael Fawsitt said research had shown early intervention to deter drug and alcohol use by teenagers and children was crucial.

"It's vital young people have access to the skills and knowledge to make the (healthy) choices," he said.

The Life Education program has been in operation for 30 years, with the help of teaching mascot Healthy Harold the Giraffe.

Rachel said she had fond memories of the Life Education van, and visits from Healthy Harold at her school. And the giraffe's message of moderation had stuck with her.

"I saw an ad on the TV for (Ocsober) and I thought, 'Why not?'" she said.

Rachel said she normally drank alcohol only on weekends, but did not support the binge drinking prevalent among Australian teenagers her age.

"I don't find (binge drinking) entertaining or healthy or anything like that," she said.

"I don't find it attractive at all."

Nambour Ocsober participant Amanda Tiller, 26, said she thought binge drinking was a big problem for young people, and spoke passionately about the need to focus on curbing teenage drinking.

"They go on about older drinkers and I say monitor the teens more," Amanda said.

A 2010 Life Education survey of 750 Queensland teenagers found just under 60% of respondents believed teenage drinking was common, and 70% believed teen alcohol use was increasing.

Amanda said she hoped teens would be included in the Ocsober campaign.

University of the Sunshine Coast paramedics student Bob Hulme said he was afraid Generation Z, coming through schools now, would suffer from unhealthy choices, and may not outlive the older Generation Y, now in the 20s.

Sunshine Coast Medical Association vice-president Mason Stevenson said Coast doctors welcomed Ocsober and would congratulate anyone who maintained sobriety over the next month.

Dr Stevenson outlined the benefits of a break from alcohol.

"The benefits are manifold," he said. "One, it proves you are not addicted to alcohol. Two, there will be no hangovers in October.

"Three, you are significantly more likely to lose weight, if one does not increase alternative calories during the month."

"Alcoholics run the real risk of suffering alcohol withdrawal in the first week of October, which may include the delirium tremors - the DTs, which can lead to fitting and coma," Dr Stevenson said.

However, he believes the positives of the Ocsober program far outweighed the negatives.

See www.ocsober.com.au to get involved.

OCSOBER FACTS

  • About 3000 people are expected to forego alcohol for this year's Ocsober
  • Life Education reaches about 15,000 Sunshine Coast children each year
  • More than 22,000 people die each year in Australia as a result of alcohol and drug abuse
  • One Australian dies every 24 minutes from legal or illegal drug use.
  • Results from the Life Education Survey 2010 of 750 Queensland teens showed:
  • About 45% of teenagers believe adults are not setting a good example with regard to alcohol use
  • 70% of teenagers who have tried alcohol said taste was the main reason they drank
  • Just under 50% of teenagers obtain alcohol from their friends
  • About 27% of teenagers obtain alcohol from their parents
  • About 40% of teenagers said they consumed alcohol either at home or at a friend's place.

Topics:  alcohol health ocsober


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