Call for national alcohol abuse summit

(Transcript from World News Australia Radio)

The Australian Medical Association is calling for a national summit to discuss ways of tackling alcohol abuse.


It says the summit should look at alcohol marketing and its exposure to young people, as well as its impact on the health system.

Peggy Giakoumelos has the details.

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The summit being proposed by the AMA would bring together representatives of the three levels of government, police, health experts, teachers, and the alcohol industry.

It would also include victims of alcohol abuse by others.

AMA federal president Dr Steve Hambleton says Australia needs more leadership to tackle alcohol misuse.

“It’s time for a change. It’s time for a summit. We need big solutions for a big problem. 25 per cent of our young people are getting admitted to hospital because of alcohol. That is not good enough. And we’re calling on our government to answer our call put together the experts. Let’s look at the solutions, let’s look at a range of things that we can implement.”

Perth intensive care specialist Professor Geoffrey Dobb is supporting the AMA’s call for action.

He says sometimes when he goes to work in the morning, half of the people in intensive care are there due to alcohol abuse.

“It’s not just the risk of death, it’s the amount of disability it caused people. So an act that lasts for just a second can impact on people, for the whole of the rest of their lives. So what we need is a change in the culture in Australia. A change in the culture that we have around alcohol. That is that we can’t celebrate without having a drink, that we can’t go out for an evening and enjoy a drink without actually drinking to get drunk.”

The AMA says the cost of alcohol-related harm in Australia, including harm caused by someone else’s drinking, is estimated to be between $15 billion and $36 billion a year.

This can include costs associated with the inability to work, car crashes, violence, as well as costs to the health and law enforcement systems.

Emergency doctor Stephen Parnis says the cost in terms of human suffering isn’t so easily measured.

“Sometimes even worse than the deaths are the patients you resuscitate who you transfer to intensive care who you know could end up requiring lifelong nursing home care. Then we talk about those other often unspeakable tragedies, domestic violence and non-accident injury of children. Alcohol is often part of this often disappointing and very very terrible scenario that we see more often then we should. And we know that reducing alcohol would reduce a lot of these terrible circumstances.”

Earlier this week, Acting Prime Minister Warren Truss said the public shouldn’t rely on governments to stop alcohol-fuelled violence.

He praised a number of new measures by the New South Wales government to crack down on alcohol-related assaults.

But Mr Truss declined to urge other states to follow suit.

He said alcohol-related violence would stop only when people took responsibility for their actions, and governments could not legislate for people to be on good behaviour.


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