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Alcohol attitude must change

5 February 2010 1,478 views No Comment

Alcohol must stop being such an intrinsic part of Australian life if the wave of alcohol-fuelled violence is to be stopped, a leading expert in the field said yesterday.

Griffith University Emeritus Professor Ross Fitzgerald, a member of the NSW Government Expert Advisory Committee on Alcohol and other Drugs, has battled with alcohol addiction for most of his life.

Professor Fitzgerald has been sober for 40 years, with his last drink on Australia Day 1970.

“That means I’ve had 40 more years on the planet than I otherwise would have had,” he told brisbanetimes.com.au yesterday.

Professor Fitzgerald said alcohol and socialising went hand-in-hand in Australia, and that needed to change.

“Alcohol is so critical to our society that our language reflects that, so ‘to drink’ means to drink alcohol,” he said.

“And ‘what’s the matter, don’t you drink?’ means ‘what’s the matter, don’t you drink alcohol?’.”

Professor Fitzgerald, who this week launched his book My Name is Ross – An Alcoholic’s Journey, said excessive drinking could make people “very dangerous” to be around.

Something must be done to stop the cycle of of excessive drinking before it starts, he said.

“At a governmental level, there should be extensive education in schools,” Professor Fitzgerald said.

“There should be a ban on advertising alcohol before 8 o’clock at night and, very importantly, we should break the nexus between alcohol and sport, in exactly the same way they did with cigarettes.”

Professor Fitzgerald said the approach for treating diagnosed alcoholics also needed to change.

“Unfortunately in Queensland Health, there is still a concerted move to get alcoholics to control or moderate their drinking, when there is absolutely no evidence that over a long time this works,” he said.

“I’ve been running the line for the past 40 years that the only safe option, the only safe therapeutic goal, is total abstinence.”

That could only be done with a support network like Alcoholics Anonymous, he said.

Professor Fitzgerald’s comments came on the eve of a public hearing into alcohol-fuelled violence in Brisbane.

The parliamentary inquiry will continue today when its fourth public hearing is heard at Queensland Parliament House.

Law, Justice and Safety Committee chair Barbara Stone said witnesses would include anti-violence campaigner Paul Stanley and criminologist Professor Ross Homel.

“We know that this matter can not be instantly remedied and we are drawing on a wide range of sources to seek long-term solutions and to improve cultural attitudes to alcohol consumption,” she said.

Published by brisbanetimes.com.au