Dangerous drinking culture can be rectified: expert

AUSTRALIANS' "love affair" with alcohol that can have an "awful social cost" may one day cool down, a team leader working on the ground says.

Reg Humphreys said he was optimistic a culture of drinking to excess could be overcome.

The team leader of two programs run by Western NSW Local Health District was encouraged by "great social changes" seen in the areas of cigarette smoking, child safety and domestic violence.

"I have absolutely no doubt Australians can accommodate a different thinking when consuming alcohol," Mr Humphreys said.

Public calls for action to tackle alcohol-fuelled violence culminated this week in the introduction of the Crimes and Other Legislation Amendment (Assault and Intoxication) Bill 2014 to Parliament.

Mr Humphreys said society was seeing more evidence of people's need to either rethink their drinking behaviour earlier in life or earlier in each episode of drinking.

Magistrates often commented the overwhelming number of matters that appeared in local courts were due to alcohol consumption and misuse, he reported.

"I have absolutely no doubt Australians can accommodate a different thinking when consuming alcohol"

"The love affair we have as a culture with alcohol needs attention," he said.

"There also can be other drugs (involved) but alcohol is legal, acceptable and accessible."

Amidst that culture, the majority of calls to its drug and alcohol helpline were from people self-referring, the team leader of the drug and alcohol service based at Dubbo reported.

People could ring the 1300 887 000 helpline and receive triage, treatment and referral services.

Mr Humphreys said his staff members were also available to speak to groups so they had information "before something tragic happens".

He also leads the Magistrates Early Referral Into Treatment program, a diversionary program that also provides complex case management to people before the courts who meet certain criteria.

It gave people the opportunity to engage in more helpful behaviour to help them in the future, Mr Humphreys said.

At times there were significant numbers of referrals to the 12-week program.

"There have been times in the recent past where referral numbers have ballooned, but at the moment they are quite manageable," he said.

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