The Impact of Alcohol Abuse / Misuse on the Community

Responsible Service of AlcoholIn Australia, alcohol is the most commonly used recreational drug. People drink alcohol for a number of reasons, including the relaxing and socialising effects of small to moderate amounts. In addition to the health issues resulting from alcohol consumption, there are social consequences both to the drinker and the community. These consequences include harm to family members and to friends and colleagues, as well as to others. RSA laws address these community concerns.

Costs accrue not only to government health and welfare services, but also to industry through absenteeism, premature retirement, and impaired or lost productivity. It has been estimated that alcohol cost Australia about $15.3 billion in 2004-05, when factors such as crime and violence, treatment costs, loss of productivity and premature death were taken into account.

Abusive behaviour, vandalism, unruly crowds, crime and accidents cause undue stress to the general public and communities as a whole. Additionally, they stretch the limited resources of police and emergency services to attend to calls and complaints.

In 2007, the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research found that at least $50M a year was spent by the NSW Police Force responding to alcohol-related crime. According to the Bureau, this would fund the annual salaries of around 1,000 constables. Responding to assaults was the most common police activity, accounting for almost 15 percent of the total alcohol related crime.

The 2007 National Drug Strategy survey found that alcohol accounted for 27 per cent of the $56.1B economic costs associated with licit and illicit drug use in Australia in 2004-05 (tobacco accounted for 56 per cent, while illicit drugs accounted for 15 per cent).

The NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing, the Department of Health, the Roads and Maritime Services and NSW Police Force play a significant role in trying to reduce these costs. They facilitate liquor accords, conduct advertising campaigns; produce educational material and training programs as preventative measures to educate both the public and liquor industry to help minimise alcohol abuse problems in the community.