What our Panel said about alcohol... February 2018

The Federal Government recently asked for feedback on the draft National Alcohol Strategy 2018-2026, so we thought it would be appropriate to survey our Consumer Health Panel to better understand South Eastern NSW community views about alcohol.

Responses indicated that 2 in 10 panel members drink alcohol either most or every day. However, the majority of people responded that they drink alcohol once or twice a week, or less than weekly. Over a quarter of participants drink alcohol less than monthly, while a small percentage abstain.

More than 80% of people are aware of the guidelines about recommended alcohol consumption levels. Almost three-quarters of survey participants were aware that the maximum number of standard drinks per person per day is two (zero for pregnant women). Most people thought these suggested levels were reasonable.

We asked panel members about useful strategies that could be considered when controlling alcohol intake. Responses included:

 CHP graph

Other strategies that were mentioned included abstinence, designated non-drinking days (e.g. three non-drinking days per week), and considering the health implications while drinking.

More than half of participants were concerned about their own drinking or the drinking habits of a loved one. Alarmingly, only 1 in 4 people have sought help.

Of those who did seek help, 1 in 3 consulted a counsellor. Other common avenues were a doctor or talking to family/friends. Only a few people saw a psychiatrist, went to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or rehab.

Of those participants who did not seek help, the majority felt that they or their loved one did not want to admit to having a problem. ‘Denial’ and ‘lack of recognition’ were listed as key issues.

One participant felt that societal norms in Australia encourage people to drink excessively. Another person said that their previous medical treatment for alcoholism had been inadequate. Several participants mentioned feeling powerless to help young adults with a drinking problem.

Confidence in local medical services and alcohol-related care was high among survey participants. Almost half felt that if they sought help from a doctor, she/he would talk through available treatments.

Pleasingly, the majority of participants would be happy to complete a survey about their drinking, while waiting to see their doctor. If this were the case, some people would like to see confidentiality procedures in place and have visibility around how the data would be used to improve current services.

When asked about the most important component in getting help for alcohol-related issues, the top responses were as follows:

  • confidentiality – 77% of people want reassurance that their treatment will be kept confidential
  • lack of judgement – 70% of people want to be able to talk to their doctor without feeling judged
  • local services – 63% of people would prefer local and/or residential services for rehabilitation
  • doctor’s assistance – 50% of people would like a doctor to select the service that suits the person’s needs and that of their family
  • peer support – 50% of people would like a peer support person to attend meetings. 

Other important considerations were as follows:

  • address the underlying causes of alcoholism, such as mental health issues
  • take into account a person’s physical health, age and fitness
  • implement culturally appropriate support services
  • increase the availability of immediate interventions and detox facilities.

Thank you to all participants for sharing your experiences with us. These views will be taken into consideration in our response to the Government and in planning our work to support people seeking alcohol-related care in the region.

More information on the new national guidelines for alcohol consumption can be found here.

COORDINARE has recently announced that Directions Health Services will operate a new drug and alcohol treatment service for people who live in the Eurobodalla region. More information on this can be found here.

Need help?

If you need information, advice or support, visit the Alcohol and Drug Information Service site here. Alternatively, you can call the telephone support line on 1800 422 599.