09:20pm Tuesday 15 October 2019

Australia can no longer bottle up alcohol issues

That’s the view of University of Queensland researchers Associate Professor Jason Connor and Professor Wayne Hall, from the Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research.

“Alcohol is not as quick to take hold on your life as some drugs, but it is the biggest killer of those available,” Dr Connor said.

Professor Hall and Dr Connor have been commissioned by medical journal The Lancet to publish a ‘seminar series’ that monitors and updates alcohol use disorder research over the next four years.

“Approximately one in three men and one in four women will develop an alcohol use disorder in their lifetime.

“Alcohol use disorders contribute about four per cent of the global burden of disease and cost Australia more than $15 billion a year in lost productivity, medical costs, policing and legal expenses from alcohol-related crimes.

“The World Health Organisation status report on alcohol in 2014 shows that alcohol consumption has increased per capita in Australia, while dropping in the US, UK and Europe.”

In terms of mental health problems, alcohol use disorders are among of the most under-treated, with less than 15 per cent of those affected receiving treatment.

Dr Connor and Professor Hall said Australians needed to reassess what was safe drinking behaviour, tighten controls and prevent heartache before it occurred.

“We don’t want people to be turning up in emergency departments with diseased livers and then deciding it’s time to act,” Professor Hall said.

“It is possible to go into Brisbane City in the middle of the day and purchase seven bottles of wine for $20.

“That is because of an unfair discount system that penalises moderate drinkers with increased tariffs on their choice of beverages, so that big chains can discount alcohol for the heaviest drinkers.”

The UQ experts suggest a three-pronged strategy of taxation reform, improved identification of those affected and a multi-disciplinary approach to treatment.

They said health practitioners were not asking enough questions about alcohol consumption.

Dr Connor and Professor Hall said a range of effective behavioural and pharmacological treatments could be used when alcohol use disorders were identified.

Professor Paul Haber from University of Sydney is also contributing with seminar series.

Media: Associate Professor Jason Connor, Jason.connor@uq.edu.au, +617 3365 5150w.hall@uq.edu.au; UQ Communications Robert Burgin, r.burgin@uq.edu.au, +617 3346 3035, +61 0448 410 364.

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