It is very Australian to consume large amounts of alcohol, in fact it is a behaviour that envelopes much of our lives. President of the Australian Medical Association Brian Owler says this needs to change. In a speech given to the AMA National Alcohol Summit, he stated some of the raw and honest facts about Australians and alcohol abuse.
When the onus is largely on our personal use of alcohol and taking responsibility for our actions, Owler reminds us that the misuse of alcohol has wider repercussions than just the drunken behaviour of the individual. He shares, “The devastating consequences of alcohol misuse extend from our cities into rural and remote areas and the number of alcohol-related assaults tops 70,000 a year.”
With the overconsumption of alcohol can often come acts of cowardice and danger; many of us have heard about the fatal impact of the ‘king hit’ or the affect alcohol mixed with drugs can have on our bodies. But what about the ramification this behaviour has on the victims? There have been 24,000 cases of alcohol related domestic violence. And in addition to this, the misuse of alcohol can also contribute to child abuse.
In his speech, Owler highlights that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. And from his own experience he shares, “As a paediatric neurosurgeon, I frequently see the results of abuse of a child's brain. The brain swells dramatically. And if we do save the child, the brain often melts away on follow-up scans, and the child is permanently disabled. It's not even a matter of drunken violence.”
When we drink alcohol without limits and allow ourselves to become intoxicated, we don’t just put ourselves in danger, we put those around us in danger too. “Someone like me has to tell the parents that their son is quadriplegic – all because of a drunken night out. Alcohol-related harm doesn't stop at the front door. It enters people's homes.” Owler says.
And it is not just families and loved ones who are impacted by this; it is the victims of sexual assault, rape and violence. It is our children who grow up in an environment where it is normal to drink alcohol heavily because it is typically Australian. There is a safe way to consume alcohol, and Owler’s speech reminds us how important it is we learn how to do this; not just for ourselves, but for others too.
Brian Owler’s speech to the AMA National Alcohol Summit was published in the Sydney Morning Herald. You can read it here.