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Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol Abuse

Advice on legislation or legal policy issues contained in this paper is provided for use in parliamentary debate and for related parliamentary purposes. This paper is not professional legal opinion.
Background Paper No. 05/2003 by Talina Drabsch
This paper explores the issues surrounding alcohol abuse in light of the Government’s announcement that an Alcohol Summit is to be held between 26 and 29 August 2003. The Summit is to be organised along similar lines to the Drug Summit and will focus on the development of strategies that minimise the harm associated with alcohol.

The paper begins by outlining some of the key terms used in relation to alcohol (section 2: pp 1-5). It then examines the role alcohol has played in Australian society, both historically and currently (section 3: pp 5-12). This is to highlight how certain drinking behaviours became established in Australian culture and how various meanings came to be attributed to its consumption. It notes the current drinking behaviour of Australians and the costs and benefits associated with the consumption of alcohol.

Section 4 (pp 12-16) outlines the size of alcohol-related problems. Alcohol abuse is a major cause of drug-related death, second only to tobacco. Statistics are provided on the number of Australians who misuse alcohol, the health issues that flow from this, and its effect on the number of road accidents and industry productivity.

Alcohol-related problems are further explored in section 5 (pp 16-23). The health implications of alcohol abuse, and the links between alcohol, other drugs, violence and homelessness are considered. The impact of alcohol misuse in the home and on the roads is noted.

The demographics of alcohol abuse are discussed in section 6 (pp 23-32) as the misuse of alcohol impacts on sectors of the community in different ways. This section considers the various experiences of alcohol in terms of age and gender. Particular groups mentioned include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, rural and urban regions, expectant mothers, the mentally ill and prisoners.

Section 7 (pp 32-66) outlines the strategies that have been developed to counteract the extent of alcohol-related harm in the community. It classifies them according to categories developed by the National Alcohol Strategy. They include: informing the community, protecting those at higher risk, preventing alcohol-related harm in young people, improving the effectiveness of legislation and regulatory initiatives, responsible marketing and provision of alcohol, pricing and taxation, promoting safer drinking environments, drink driving and related issues, intervention by health professionals, workforce development, and research and evaluation. Strategies that have been adopted to reduce alcohol related harm in general are also noted.

APPENDIX B traces the history of liquor regulation in New South Wales.