The Cost Of Alcohol Abuse Has A Massive Social And Economic Cost
A study by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education in 2010 estimated the cost of alcohol abuse in Australia to be $36 Billion. It would be fair to say in 2017 it would be well over $40 Billion.
Close to 3/4 of Australia’s adult population are negatively effected by alcohol in any given year according to the study.
70 000 Adults each year are the victim of alcohol related assault each year. 24 000 of these are victims of domestic violence and predominantly female.
There is also 20 000 children each year who are the victims of alcohol related child abuse each year. This is more than a third of all child abuse cases.
And the sorts of abuse that children suffer from are sexual abuse, physical abuse and neglect. The effects of these can be life long. Some Children will never get over it and will never be productive members of society.
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is the leading cause of preventable birth defects and intellectual disability due to parents drinking alcohol during pregnancy.
There is little data on the prevalence of FASD in Australia but it is estimated that FASD affects roughly between 2% and 5% of the population in the United States and can be as high as 12 – 15 % in indigenous populations. These victims may never be productive members of society.
The $36 Billion figure comprises $24.7 billion in tangible costs which include out-of-pocket expenses, forgone wages or workplace productivity, hospital and childcare protection costs. Alcohol abuse has long been an expensive problem, which imposes huge costs on the health system as well as the problem drinkers themselves.
There are a further $11.6 billion in intangible costs, which include lost quality of life from someone else’s drinking.
The costs are huge and include things like assaults, hospitalisations, drink driving, vandalism, jail terms and health problems.
Other key statistics from the report include that almost a third of the adult population report being negatively affected by the drinking of someone who was known to them.
Women state being negatively affected by the drinking of a relative or household member more frequently than men (14 per cent to 8 per cent).
How Can We Reduce Alcohol Abuse?
According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CoDCaP) in the United States excessive alcohol use cost the US $250 billion in economic costs and responsible for 88 000 deaths per year.
The (CoDCaP) list strategies to reduce alcohol harm which include reducing bottle shop density. Alcohol is far too accessible and more bottle shops keep popping up in shopping centers. Bottle shop density needs to be reduced and taken out of shopping centers.
Taxes need to be increased. Taxes need to calculated on a per standard drink basis. The wine lobby has lobbied for lower taxes on wine which makes cheap wine casks the favourite for alcohol dependent people. The taxes should be used for education campaigns and increased law enforcement.
Opening hours should also be reduced. Bottle shops open too early and close too late. Night Club trading hours should also be reduced and Night Clubs should be closing no later than 2 or 3 am.
Laws should be tightened to hold alcohol retail establishments liable for injuries or harms caused by illegal service to intoxicated or underage customers.
The money raised by increased taxes can be used in law enforcement, enforcing responsible serving of alcohol and police patrols around night spot areas to crack down on drunken and unruly behavior.
Money can also be used to increase education campaigns. High profile athletes, actors and musicians can tour schools educating children on the dangers of alcohol overuse. Nationwide television campaigns can be set up to show drunken behavior is dangerous and not a good look.
Governments have achieved this with cigarette smoking by reducing accessibility and increasing taxes there is no reason why it can’t be done with alcohol.