New laws introduced to curb alcohol harm have failed to make a dent on ED admissions, new research has found.
The study, released today, showed that around one in 14 ED attendances presented immediately after alcohol consumption or as a short-term effect of drinking and that rate had remained the same over a four-year period.
The findings come amid warnings alcohol is now the cheapest it's ever been, with calls for further restrictions.
Data for the study was collected in two waves - the first was in 2013, when legislation that gave local councils greater power to restrict the sale of alcohol had not come into affect, and the second in 2017 when the law changes were in place.
In 2017, about 25 per cent of those alcohol-related admissions had consumed more than 15 standard drinks before admission to ED and 18 per cent had consumed more than 20 drinks.
Head researcher James Foulds said that showed that the people who were presenting for alcohol-related reasons were consuming a very high amount.
"And you'd think these were people stumbling out of bars at 2am in the morning but the majority had actually bought alcohol from a liquor store or supermarket and were drinking at a private location," he said.
The Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 allowed local councils the right to adopt their own alcohol policies, which could cover anything from the number and location of licenced premises to trading hours and one-way door restrictions.
But the problem was those policies could still be contested in court which was preventing local regulations from being implemented, said Foulds who led the University of Otago study.
The 2012 act also restricted alcohol promotions, tightened trading hours and enforced parental consent to supply liquor to minors.
But Alcohol Health Watch executive director Dr Nicki Jackson said those laws didn't include any evidence-based measures that the law commissioner recommended.
"We've seen alcohol become more affordable than ever before and we are paying the cost for that in our emergency departments," Jackson said.
Jackson said these findings were not surprising and it was a major issue happening nationwide.
"What we have seen is a shift away from on-licensed liquor to cheap liquor available at off-licensed premises.
"The difference off-licence and on-license prices is now huge and putting alcohol next to bread and milk normalises the product."
Christchurch Hospital ED senior doctor Scott Pearson said the study was very accurate to what he was seeing every day at work.
"We still see quite a lot of alcohol affected individuals that are predominantly after hours and that hasn't changed in the last five years."
He said the ED had had more than 5,000 alcohol-related admissions a year and more lately that's been in addition to synthetic cannabis.
"These people are very difficult to manage, they put themselves and other people at enormous risk. It is a huge concern," Pearson said.
Health Minister David Clark said it was "disturbing but unsurprising" there had been no reduction in alcohol-related presentations at emergency departments.
"New Zealand continues to face significant challenges with alcohol," he said.
"Addressing these long standing challenges will require a significant change in attitude across our communities.
"Until then, the Ministry of Health will continue to review its messaging regarding alcohol in order to help reduce alcohol-related harm."