Nearly one in four New Zealand emergency department patients are there because of alcohol, new research has found.
The study, from the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, surveyed alcohol-related presentations in emergency rooms here and in Australia.
The rate was lower in Australia, where one in eight admissions to emergency departments were alcohol-related.
A Kiwi emergency room specialist says our statistics are shameful, and the influx of drunk patients is placing a lot of strain on staff.
"When you're sober, dealing with drunk people is really problematic because they're not cooperative, they're not helpful, and they're kind of a self-inflicted issue," says Waikato Hospital emergency clinical director Dr John Bonning.
He says drunk patients take away time and resources from other sick people.
"It frustrates us when there are so many other patients that are deserving of care."
Dr Bonning says alcohol-related admissions have almost doubled in a year - up from one in seven admissions last year.
"A hundred percent of New Zealand emergency departments were surveyed at that time and it just shows how significant a problem this is."
He says the country needs to take a look at its drinking culture.
"We need to modify availability. There needs to be a review of pricing and advertising [of alcohol]. It's just so readily available, so freely marketed."