News State NSW News Communities ‘can’t tackle booze alone’

Communities ‘can’t tackle booze alone’

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Grassroots efforts make some difference to risky drinking but legislative muscle is needed to tackle serious alcohol-related violence, a new report has found.

The five-year National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre study found that community interventions could help reduce average weekly alcohol consumption but had little impact on binge drinking, assaults, car crashes and hospital visits.

The 13 measures implemented in 10 of the 20 towns involved in the study included alcohol education, media campaigns, early intervention training for GPs, as well as high-visibility policing during weekends identified as `high risk’.

“The main positive outcome was a significant reduction in weekly average consumption,” study leader and University of NSW Professor Anthony Shakeshaft told AAP.

Survey respondents in the experimental towns reported drinking an average 1.9 fewer standard drinks per week after the 13 interventions were rolled out.

“It doesn’t sound like much but that’s actually a pretty good outcome when it comes to reducing the risk of alcohol-related diseases like liver disease,” Prof Shakeshaft said.

There was also a reported reduction in verbal abuse on the streets.

But there was no significant drop in serious assaults and hospitalisation rates, nor in binge drinking – defined as seven drinks in one session for men, or five for women.

“Community action might be really good at reducing those lower-level harms but they’re not particularly effective at reducing those more serious incidents,” Prof Shakeshaft said.

“I think it’s unlikely that communities by themselves can change that binge-drinking culture.”

The findings follow the rollout of the NSW O’Farrell government’s new alcohol sales restrictions in Sydney city pubs and clubs, and earlier bottle shop closing times statewide.

Prof Shakeshaft said he believed alcohol advertising, availability and cost were key to cutting serious alcohol-related violence.

The research was published in the journal PLOS Medicine on Wednesday.

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