Figures reveal one in five Kiwis are hazardous drinkers

New figures reveal a significant increase in the amount Kiwis are drinking, and it's causing concern from experts.

One in five Kiwis are classified as hazardous drinkers, and there are calls for the Government to raise the cost of raising a glass.

"Not only are we making no progress, we're going backwards," says Nicki Jackson, of Alcohol Healthwatch.

"More New Zealanders are choosing to drink and I'm mostly concerned about the significant increases we've seen in weekly heavy drinking."

That's especially true in young people. The number of 18- 24-year-olds drinking heavily at least once a week has increased by a third, to more than 21 percent.

Overall, more than 80 percent of adults drank alcohol in the past year - up 2 percent.

Psychiatrist Emma Schwarcs, an addiction specialist and clinical director of CADS Auckland, says the increase is noticeable.

"A few more young people are coming through in actual fact," she says. "Not only in terms of volume, but actually their severity is a little higher."

Heavy drinking is defined as consuming six or more drinks on any one occasion.

Guidelines suggest women should drink a maximum of one-and-a-half bottles of wine per week. For men, it's two bottles maximum.

So when should we really worry?

"A nice little handy thing to remember is the four Ls," says Schwarcz. "The liver, lover, livelihood and law. So liver being your health, lover being relationships, livelihood your work and the law's the law. When we've crossed the threshold and it's affecting those areas, it is certainly time to get help."

Schwarcz says all alcohol is harmful and anyone concerned should talk to their GP.

Alcohol harm costs the country almost $8billion a year, including healthcare, policing and the justice system.

Alcohol Healthwatch says the Government must put the price up.

"We have a budget end of alcohol in our market sold well below $1 a standard drink. If you look at Scotland, Wales, Ireland, they've all passed minimum-price legislation," says Dr Jackson.

They warn if we don't address it things will only get worse.