Alcohol is the most widely used recreational drug in Australia. After tobacco, alcohol is the second largest contributor to drug-related harm in Australia. The majority of Australians enjoy a drink, to relax and socialize, for cultural participation or religious observance and often do so at levels that cause few adverse effects. However, a significant proportion of people drink at levels that increase their risk of alcohol-related harm. For some, alcohol is a cause of major ill health and hardship.
In many countries, including Australia, alcohol and the harms caused by excessive alcohol consumption are a significant cause of death and injury. Excessive drinking results in:
- Around 3,000 deaths and 65,000 hospitalisations in Australia every year;
- Injury, death and mental distress to not only individuals, but their families, bystanders and the broader community;
- Costs to the Australian community; it is estimated that in 2004-05, alcohol- related harm cost the Australian community $15.3 billion.
The main causes of alcohol-related deaths are cancer, alcoholic liver cirrhosis and road trauma. Younger people however are more likely to die from bouts of intoxication or road trauma, whilst older people are more likely to die from conditions related to long-term alcohol misuse.
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