Sobering words on risky drinking

As the Chief Executive of the Foundation for Alcohol Research & Education (FARE), Michael Thorn is a significant driver of policy change to reduce high risk drinking. But fixing Australia’s drinking culture is easier said than done, as 6minutes discovers.

Are attitudes towards drinking changing?

I think people are finally acknowledging there is a problem but while average consumption has plateaued, certain groups are continuing to drink in a very harmful way and not showing any signs of slowing down. Evidence shows that heavy drinking is getting worse among young men and women.

Is the medical profession helping?

Yes, they have been doing a lot of heavy lifting around trying to address alcohol misuse issues and I certainly can’t find fault with the likes of Brian Owler [AMA President NSW], Steve Hambleton [AMA President] and Geoff Dobb [Critical Care Director Royal Perth Hospital]. These guys have been on the front line actively advocating for change.

What about GPs in general?

I don’t think GPs are on top of it, and there is evidence for that. They are happy to ask patients about their smoking but they are not at a point where they are happy to ask them about their alcohol use.

Why is that?

I think because asking the question implies that the patient might be consuming alcohol in a risky way so GPs prefer not to go there. Also, perhaps they want to avoid reflecting on their own alcohol use.

Do you think the medical profession is particularly at risk?