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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 3. 14th March 1973

Attitudes to Alcoholics

Attitudes to Alcoholics

Dear Editor,

The article on alcoholism by Gyles Beckford in the last issue of Salient is misleading in at least one respect. It can also foster attitudes toward the alcoholic and the treatment of alcoholism which he deprecates and wishes to change.

He says, "there are two kinds of alcoholics in this country" and he classifies them as the affluent alcoholic who lives in a place such as Karori, and the 'skid row' alcoholic who sleeps out at the Basin Reserve. However, almost nothing is known about the social and economic characteristics of the estimated 50,000 alcoholics in New Zealand. The evidence which exists suggests that alcoholism is not confined to any particular social group, and it is generally accepted that alcoholism is no respector of persons. The fact that alcoholics might, for example, be faculty members, students, typists or gardeners at this university, is not considered by the classification Mr Beckford offers. Yet, I, together with several other alcoholics, work here and none of us conform to the description he offers. In giving his classification he is trading on a popular and ignorant stereotype of the alcoholic which does nothing to assist the alcoholic in general, and certainly does not assist the skid row' alcoholic who is his concern.

His misidentification of alcoholics led him to a narrow account of treatment facilities for alcoholics and to gloss over the complexity of treatment. The programmes and referral services which exist (for instance, at Queen Mary Hospital, King-seat Hospital, Alcoholics Anonymous and the National Society for Alcoholism and Drug Dependency) may be poorly staffed and inadequately funded but they do represent a more accurate description of available resources than the reference to the Wellington City Mission and "a few church bodies".

Yours sincerely,

Christopher Wainwright