Alcohol: the solution

Robin Room is probably the most respected expert on drug policy in the world. I haven’t looked hard, but it seems that it’s rare to get his thoughts in brief, digestible pieces. This article includes some of his thoughts about Australian alcohol policy. It appears that much of what’s said could also apply to the U.S.:

There is a recurring problem in the attempt to reduce alcohol harm. “What’s popular doesn’t work and what works isn’t popular,” according to internationally renowned alcohol policy researcher Professor Robin Room, the president of the Alcohol and Other Drugs Council of Australia.

High-profile media campaigns urging the public to drink responsibly are far less effective than reducing density of alcohol outlets, restricting trading hours and increasing taxes, he argues.

But despite international evidence proving the success of such measures, the industry is not supportive.

“I don’t think it helps that the Federal Government put $5 million into Drinkwise, an industry-funded organisation meant to educate the public about responsible alcohol use. Fundamentally, the industry’s interest is in channelling any concerns about alcohol into strategies that won’t affect their bottom line,” said Professor Room.

Breaking down Federal Government guidelines on safe drinking by age group has also been suggested.

The guidelines recommend no more than four standard drinks a day and no more than 28 standard drinks over a week for men. Women should have an average of no more than two a day and no more than 14 over a week. One or two alcohol-free days a week are recommended.

“The national guidelines are based on people of average size under 65. As people get older, their body mass and muscle decline and they may well be in ill health and on medication. Should the national guidelines apply? We don’t know,” said Professor Steve Allsop, director of the National Drug Research Institute.