15 June 2008

Binge Drinking in Australia

Binge drinking at any time and in any country can be and is a problem. Australia is no different from any other country in that binge drinking is a problem, particularly amongst the youth population. However, binge drinking is not just a youth problem and it effects adults as well. With this in mind the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) is going to release a set of guidelines defining what constitutes binge drinking in Australia. This is part of a government initiative to reduce and eliminate binge drinking from the Australian community and culture.

The NHMRC guidelines will state that any more than four standard drinks per day constitutes a binge drinking session (photo by Adam Hollingworth). This would seem to be a some what draconian means of setting the limit in that there is expected to be associated legislation that comes into force in an attempt to reduce binge drinking. Simply, two people sharing a bottle of wine where one of the drinkers takes a little larger share of the bottle will constitute that person having been on a binge drinking session. The idea that four drinks is a binge drinking session plays to the hysteria that permeates the public debate on drinking in general and binge drinking in particular.

There is no doubt that alcohol is a dangerous drug and the number of accidents and the amount of crime that can be linked to alcohol abuse and misuse is considerable. The question that arises is whether there are any redeeming features of responsible alcohol use? It has long been reported that a glass of wine or two a day is good for overall health and heart health. Two glasses of wine would put you close to the four drink limit.

Nevertheless, alcohol is probably not the most dangerous drug in our communities and its elevation to a position of one of the most dangerous drugs in the community completely fails to recognize that it is legal and people are allowed to drink. The reality is that there are many more illicit drugs in out communities that are illegal, rightly or wrongly so, but all the same illegal. Perhaps the government should be directing more attention to crimes involving illicit drugs.

The alternatives here are that the government if it is indeed serious about reducing alcohol related crime, then it must ban all chemical substances that can harm us. This includes not only alcohol but tobacco as well. Yet, history shows us that prohibition does not work. So, perhaps legalization of other chemical substances might be the way to go.

The reality is that the only way to enforce the proposed NHMRC binge drinking guidelines is going to be to draft and enact super-draconian laws that not only punish binge drinkers but those that facilitate binge drinking by serving more than four standard drinks to any patron of their respective establishments.

Undoubtedly, there is to be more debate on this subject and more opportunities for me to comment.


The Weary Traveller said...

Legislate or educate?
Does the state have to protect people from their own stupidity, or simply make them accountable?
When the bear was a cub, drunkenness was a crime. The police could, and did, pick you up and bang you into the cells for the night. You were up before the beak the next day, and had a criminal record that hung around like a bad smell. Made it hard to get a job, passport, things like that…..

Rob Baiton said...


I feel that the way to go is to educate and to ensure that people understand their own personal accountability and culpability is directly related to their actions.

I agree the idea of a criminal record might be some deterrent or an incentive not to drink but I feel that the greater majority will not necessarily be thinking of any criminal record when they drink.

As I said, I will be watching where this all goes!

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Well this is good for people but I don't approve it... but there's nothing I can do...
anyway, it's good because no this times young people drink to much.. it's amazing they drink just for get uncoincious.

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