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One in Eight Deaths of Young Australians Attributable to Alcohol: Report

One in eight deaths of Australians aged under 25 is now related to alcohol consumption, a report has revealed.

The Australian National Council on Drugs report  (ANCD) also found 60 per cent of all police call outs - up to 90 per cent at night - are alcohol-related.

ANCD chairman Dr John Herron says the report shows more work needs to be done to tackle the problem. 

VIDEO: National Council on Drugs chairman John Herron speaks to News Breakfast (ABC News)

AUDIO: Listen to the story  (AM)

"The level of alcohol-related damage occurring in our communities is simply appallling," he said.

"The health, social and economic costs associated with alcohol use simply cannot be allowed to continue at the current level."

The report found 20 per cent of Australians are now drinking at levels that put them at risk of lifetime harm from injury or disease.

ANCD report key findings:

  • Almost 1 in 8 deaths of people aged under 25 is due to alcohol
  • 60% of all police attendances (including 90% of late-night calls) involve alcohol
  • One in 5 hospitalizations of people under 25 are due to alcohol
  • 20% of Australians drink at levels putting them at risk of lifetime harm
  • Almost two thirds of 18-29 year olds drink "specifically to get drunk"

One in four Australians reported being a victim of alcohol-related verbal abuse.

An estimated $800 million is spent on public order and safety by local governments, and insurance administration costs related to alcohol were at least $185 million in 2004–05.

Alcohol consumption among young people is a significant concern.

While many young people typically engage in fewer episodes of drinking overall, they are more likely to consume at higher risk levels each time, the ANCD said.

It found young people were also more likely to specifically drink to become intoxicated, and more likely to experience acute alcohol-related injuries.

Almost two thirds of 18-29-year-olds said they drank "specifically to get drunk" and the hospitalization of one in five people under the age of 25 was the result of alcohol, according to the report.

"There is hardly an Australian community or family that has not been affected by alcohol problems," ANCD member Professor Steve Allsop said.

'My twenties are a blur'

Recovering alcoholic Mathew Baldwin tells how a decade of alcohol addiction nearly took his life. AUDIO: Listen to the story (AM)

"Our safety on the road, the costs to our hospitals and police service, our concern about young people all demand investment in effective responses."

The ANCD has been the principal advisory body to the Government on drug policy since 1998.

The Council's executive director, Gino Vumbaca, says the community is at breaking point, and he believes it is time governments stood up to the alcohol industry.

"I think if you were to talk to anybody who works in the police service, anyone who works in a hospital emergency department or scores, thousands of families who have ... had violence and other problems inflicted upon them because of someone else's alcohol use, then you'll agree and understand why Australia needs to take a new course of action on how it deals with alcohol," he said.

"There's three areas you have to tackle and that's availability, price and promotion.

"Availability means we look at the amount of venues we have and the licensing hours we have for alcohol availability.

"Price, you're looking at some bottles of wine being sold on the internet and the like and in supermarkets, you know, a couple of dollars a bottle.  

"And the other thing we have to look at is promotion. It's a self-regulated system. Advertising at some points is incessant at young people."

The advisory group says while it recognizes alcohol consumption is a regular part of social life for many Australians, levels and patterns of consumption are frequently risky or unhealthy and create serious problems.  

It has created an Alcohol Action Plan which aims to stem the "unacceptable levels of crime, violence, health harms and family disturbance" caused by alcohol.

The plan calls for all states and territories to collect and release data on alcohol sales to allow local analysis.

It also wants statistics on both police incidents and emergency department admissions, that involve alcohol, collected across the country.

The ANCD also says alcohol consumption guidelines should be developed for older Australians and a Parliamentary review on the impact of alcohol advertising should be established.


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