Two million “Problem Drinkers”

Australia’s reputation as a nation of drunkards is confirmed! More than two million of us drink alcohol at risky/high levels, according to figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. And yet the alcohol industry remains a part of “respectable society”, and even attracts government assistance!

According to the ABS media release:

  • Harm from alcohol causes 5.5% of the burden of disease for males and 2.2% for females.
  • The increase in those drinking at a risky/high risk level since 1995 has been greater for women than men. The proportion of females who drank at a risky/high risk level increased from 6.2% to 11.7%, while for males the increase was from 10.3% to 15.2%.

That is, the problem is bad and it’s getting worse. And as we already know:

  • Alcohol is the second largest cause of drug-related deaths and hospitalisations (after tobacco).
  • Alcohol is the main cause of deaths on Australian roads. In 1998, over 2,000 deaths of the total 7,000 deaths of persons under 65 years, were related to alcohol.

The figures go on and on… and so does the hypocrisy.

As I’ve posted before, less than half a percent of the population using methamphetamines (“ice” or “crystal meth”) has caused a moral panic, including a tabloid-screeching edition of Four Corners. But the “alcohol problem” is, in raw numerical terms, more than 120 times bigger. 9.5 million Australian enjoy a drink in a typical week, compared with a supposed 73,000 using ice.

Literally thousands of Australian die every year directly as a result of alcohol. And yet we still use it to bless marriages, launch ships and (if Christian) celebrate communion with God. The government not only condones selling alcohol, it actually gives the industry millions of dollars in tax relief. We even promote wine tourism!

What I don’t understand is why two drugs of similar harm levels are treated so very differently. One attracts millions of dollars in government assistance, the other costs us millions of dollars in policing. What is the difference?

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