Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol abuse kills more than 3 million people worldwide each year through disease and violence, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). (1)

Chronic alcoholism and binge drinking raised the risk of developing more than 200 diseases including stroke, cirrhosis, heart disease, pancreatitis, foetal alcohol syndrome and cancer.(2) Excessive drinking also weakened the immune system, making the body an easier target for infections.

The hidden cost to the community, however, lies in alcohol-fuelled family violence, child abuse, poverty, unemployment, mental illness, sexual assault, relationship breakdown, social exclusion and other risk factors to quality of life.

The Australian Human Rights Commission stated that ‘alcohol misuse is estimated to be a contributing factor in half of domestic, sexual and physical violence cases against children’. (3) Groups that were particularly vulnerable included female, indigenous, disabled and low socio-economic children and young people who were overrepresented in victim statistics.

Rise Up Australia believes that our nation can no longer afford to ignore the social scourge of alcohol abuse by dismissing it as an inevitable part of our nation’s hedonistic culture.

Statistics collected by The Australian Medical Association notes that Australians drink large and volumes of alcohol on a frequent basis and often from an early age. (4) By the age of 18, approximately half of males and females are drinking at harmful levels but generally think of themselves as ‘social drinkers’ and do not perceive the volumes consumed to be a problem.

The risks of alcohol abuse are multiple, with implications for health, violence, death, disability and other forms of injury. VIC Roads calculated that in Victoria alone a quarter of drivers killed in road crashes had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .05 or more. (5) At a BAC of .05, the risk of being involved in a road crash doubles compared to a BAC of zero. Yet another example where an individual’s misuse of alcohol can adversely affect not only themselves but other members of the community.

Rise Up Australia believes that the answer lies in a multi-faceted approach and is committed to the following:

  • Raising the legal age of drinking to 21 in line with calls by experts to protect young people from alcohol-related harm. (6)
  • Legislation requiring offenders to undergo mandatory re-education and rehabilitation programs for crimes where alcohol abuse was a factor, including violence, sexual assault, child abuse, drink driving and public nuisance convictions.
  • Introduce/expand father support services in conjunction with community sector organisations to help fathers form healthy bonds with their children, where possible, and solidify the family unit as a whole.
  • Education campaigns in school grades 5-12 to educate pre-teens and teenagers about the immediate and long-term effects of alcohol abuse. Testimonials of young people who were impacted by life-changing circumstances as a result of alcohol abuse will put a human face on this tragedy.
  • Widespread and ongoing media education campaigns on the health risks and social implications of binge drinking and alcoholism. In addition, campaigns promoting a ‘Why Not Try It Dry’ message letting Australians know that an alcohol-free night out is a valid option.
  • Banning of television programs, such as Geordie Shore and Jersey Shore, which frequently glorify binge drinking and are deemed harmful to the healthy physical, sexual, social and emotional development of young people.
  • Stronger sanctions, including increased fines and restriction/withdrawal of liquor licences, against clubs and pubs who serve inebriated patrons. Also, requirements for all venues to offer and promote a greater range of low-alcohol and no-alcohol drink options.
  • Tougher penalties on businesses, such as bottle shops, and individuals, such as parents, who supply alcohol to minors.

 

References

(1) Kelland, Kate. ‘WHO wants action as alcohol kills more than 3.3 million in 2012’, Reuters, 12 May 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/05/12/us-health-alcohol-idUSKBN0DS0QS20140512

(2) ‘Alcohol’s Effect on the Body’, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, retrieved 14 May 2014, http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/alcohols-effects-body

(3) ‘Children and young people: Risk factors, vulnerable groups and protective factors’, Australian Human Rights Commission, retrieved 14 May 2014, https://bullying.humanrights.gov.au/violence-harrassment-and-bullying-children-and-young-people-4

(4) ‘Alcohol Use and Harms in Australia (2009) – Information Paper’, Australian Medical Association, https://ama.com.au/alcohol-use-and-harms-australia-2009-information-paper, retrieved 14 May 2014.

(5) ‘Alcohol and Road Safety’, VIC Roads, retrieved 09 Dec 2016, https://www.vicroads.vic.gov.au/safety-and-road-rules/driver-safety/drugs-and-alcohol/alcohol-and-road-safety

(6) Medew, Julia. ‘Calls for drinking age to be raised to 21’, Sydney Morning Herald, http://www.smh.com.au/national/calls-for-drinking-age-to-be-raised-to-21-20140512-zraj6.html, 12 May 2014.

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