“Every hour of every day, in every corner of the country, alcohol is causing harm. Australia has a problem with alcohol – a big problem. More than half of Australian drinkers consume alcohol in excess of the recommended intake, and one in five Australians drink alcohol at a level that puts them at risk of lifetime harm for injury or disease. The health, social, and economic burden caused by alcohol in Australia is substantial and unacceptable “
AMA President, Professor Brian Owler (pictured below with NACCHO Chair Matthew Cooke at a recent NACCHO Parliamentary Event in Canberra )
Ahead of Federal Parliament resuming next week, the AMA is calling on the Government to renew its focus on addressing the many ways that the misuse of alcohol is causing harm across the Australian community.
AMA President, Professor Brian Owler, said today that the AMA acknowledges that some governments are working on new solutions and actions to address alcohol-related harms that touch the lives of most Australians – but it is too slow.
“It is nine months since the AMA National Alcohol Summit in Canberra, which called on the Australian Government to drive all our governments in the development of a new National Alcohol Strategy,” Professor Owler said.
“The response from most governments has been slow, but the tragic results of alcohol abuse continue at a fast pace, taking lives, destroying health, fuelling domestic violence, breaking up families, and ruining lives.
“Every hour of every day, in every corner of the country, alcohol is causing harm.
“Australia has a problem with alcohol – a big problem.
“More than half of Australian drinkers consume alcohol in excess of the recommended intake, and one in five Australians drink alcohol at a level that puts them at risk of lifetime harm for injury or disease.
“The health, social, and economic burden caused by alcohol in Australia is substantial and unacceptable.
“Alcohol-related violence, chronic disease, accidents, and death occur frequently, and harm not only the individual drinker, but also families, bystanders, and the wider community.
“As doctors, AMA members see the devastating effects of alcohol abuse too often – from victims of domestic abuse in the local general practice to the victims of car accidents and senseless violence turning up in emergency departments.
“We are not calling for a ban on alcohol: we are calling for a safer and more responsible drinking culture in this country.
“A National Alcohol Strategy – agreed and owned by all Australian governments – is needed to help drive this important change. We need it now. It will save lives.”
Professor Owler said that the Federal Government had shown what is possible with the establishment of the National Ice Task Force.
“The Government is to be congratulated for taking a stand to deal with the ‘ice’ scourge that is damaging lives, families, and communities,” Professor Owler said.
“But alcohol is a bigger problem – alcohol abuse is far and away the leading cause of disability among substance use disorders.
“We need a similar strong, decisive – and quick – response to the scourge of alcohol.”
The 2014 AMA Alcohol Summit identified that a new National Alcohol Strategy should:
- Set out the role of the Australian Government in leading a consistent national approach to the supply of, and access to, alcohol.
- Include the development and implementation of effective and sustained advertising and community-led public education campaigns that address the public’s understanding of unsafe drinking and the harms of excess alcohol use. Campaigns should target a range of priority audiences, including young people and pregnant women.
- Include the increased availability of targeted alcohol prevention and treatment services throughout the community, including: GP-led services and referral mechanisms; community-led interventions; safe sobering-up facilities; increased availability of addiction medicine specialist services; treatment and detoxification services at all major hospitals; and services for acute alcohol abuse at hospitals with emergency departments.
- Include measures that specifically respond to the particular needs and preferences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and other culturally and linguistically diverse groups.
- Include the development and implementation of statutory regulation of alcohol marketing and promotion, independently of the alcohol and advertising industries, with meaningful sanctions for non-compliance. Particular attention should be paid to sponsorship and promotion in the community and professional sporting industries.
- Support research and evaluation and data collection to monitor and measure alcohol use and alcohol-related harms across the Australian community, and the effectiveness of different alcohol treatment options. Data collected by Government departments and authorities should be readily available to alcohol researchers and program evaluators.
- Include a review of current alcohol taxation and pricing arrangements and how they can be reformed to discourage harmful drinking.
- Ensure transparent policy development, with sufficient independence to avoid influence from industry.
- The Australian Bureau of Statistics Apparent Consumption of Alcohol report (May 2015) shows that an average of 2.1 standard drinks is consumed per day by persons aged 15 and over;
- Yusuf and Leeder (MJA 203 (3) 3 August 2015) found that daily alcohol intake has increased by 13 per cent, with men consuming up to 5 standard drinks per day;
- According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report, Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Services in Australia 2013-2014, the main substance leading clients to seek treatment continues to be alcohol (40 per cent);
- A snapshot survey conducted by the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM) in December 2013 found that up to one in three presentations to some EDs in Australasia were alcohol-related; and
- 92 per cent of ED doctors and nurses have experienced assaults or physical threats from drunk patients, and 98 per cent had experienced alcohol-related verbal aggression.
According to the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010, substance use disorders account for 14.7 per cent of the world’s disease burden, and alcohol use disorders have far and away the highest disability adjusted life years (DALYs) of other substances.
|DALYs per 100,000||Male 1990||Male 2010||Female 1990||Female 2010|
There is substantial evidence on the prevalence of alcohol related domestic violence:
- In the 2012 Personal Safety Survey, an estimated 53 percent of women who had been assaulted by a male (in the past twenty years) reported that alcohol and drugs had been involved in the most recent incident.
- The 2015 Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) report: Domestic/Family Homicide in Australia informed there was more use of alcohol than illicit drugs in both domestic/family and non-domestic/family homicides.
- According to the 2009 Australian Institute of Criminology report, Trends and Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice, 44 per cent of intimate-partner homicides and 87 per cent of Indigenous intimate-partner homicides were alcohol related.
- The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) found that 41 per cent of all incidents of domestic assault reported to the police between 2001 and 2010 were alcohol-related.
- The National Homicide Monitoring Program annual report, Homicide in Australia 2008-2009 and 2009-2010, found that alcohol consumption occurred in 47 per cent of all homicide incidents.
6 August 2015