Drug Action Week: Information to help people feel better

19 June 2012

The NRHA is pleased to support the Alcohol and other Drugs Council of Australia (ADCA) in its work to minimise the harm caused by the excessive consumption of alcohol and the misuse of licit and illicit drugs. Drug Action Week starts today with the overall theme of “Looking after your mind” and today’s particular theme is Country Communities at Risk from Alcohol and Drugs.

The focus on country communities is welcome, with risky levels of alcohol consumption and rates of smoking higher in rural and remote areas than in cities. The proportion of those drinking at dangerous levels increases with remoteness, with men and youths and those working in the farming industry, being especially at risk. This is despite the fact that the serious personal, social and economic costs of drinking to excess and of smoking at all are widely understood.

There is a strong drinking culture in Australian society and alcohol consumption is associated with pleasure, celebration and ‘rites of passage’. Some associate drinking with self-reliance, hardiness and mateship. But alcohol misuse is responsible for 3.2 per cent of the total burden of disease and injury in Australia.

The Cancer Council is pushing for better understanding of the link between alcohol and cancer so that people can make informed decisions about what and how much they drink. Just drinking a little less will make you feel and look better.

The NRHA would like people to be aware of the NHMRC guidelines to minimise the negative impacts of alcohol use (www.nhmrc.gov.au/guidelines/publications/ds10). Another valuable source of information is the National Alliance for Action on Alcohol (www.phaa.net.au - search NAAA) which is advocating attention to alcohol pricing, taxation, marketing and promotion.

Alcohol is a drug that is readily available in most communities, and there is a lack of knowledge of alcohol guidelines and alcohol-related harms among rural residents, and a low level of community awareness of alcohol as a local problem. Health promotion programs need to recognise the importance of health literacy, the inability of some to pay health-related expenses, and attitudes which might delay seeking treatment.

If you would like more information, see www.drugactionweek.org.au and the National Rural Health Alliance’s Fact Sheets on Alcohol use in rural Australia and a new one, No 33, Illicit drug use in rural Australia. Go to www.ruralhealth.org.au