The Herald Sun - Australia
February 22, 2008 12:00am
Alcohol as bad as heroin
ALCOHOL is the new heroin. Not since the heroin epidemic of the 1990s has so much attention or government effort been focused on the harm caused by a mind-altering substance.
Just as supply was a central issue with the heroin epidemic, the Brumby Government is closely looking at how alcohol is delivered to consumers of all ages.
Mental Health Minister Lisa Neville has made it clear that supply issues -- through pubs, clubs, restaurants and cafes -- are on the Government's agenda.
But Ms Neville also insists there is no cure-all for alcohol's health risks.
The Government's response will be through a four-minister alcohol taskforce, which will report mid-year, and the new expert body on alcohol and drugs, headed by neurologist and addiction expert, Prof Jon Currie.
On the growing call for a curb in the number of liquor licences, Ms Neville says any decisions must be evidence-based.
"I don't think we know enough about that (the evidence) yet and that's some of the work that will be feeding in through the alcohol action plan," Ms Neville told the Herald Sun.
"Does density make a difference? Is it certain types of liquor licences? Is it certain outlets? Are restaurants and cafes that have liquor licences OK? But not these nightclubs? Is that the problem?
"And I think we need to be clear about that to make sure that we're making the right decisions where we might intervene."
Central to the Government's response will be trying to change the way the community views alcohol -- not to create a wowser state but to discourage binge drinking among the young, in part through marketing.
"We need to find the right message," Ms Neville says.
"We have to be realistic about what's going to shift behaviours and help young people make responsible decisions. And help parents understand what their messages are."