HARD TIMES: Sights like this man sprawled out at the Maclean CBD bus stop are a sobering reminder of its potential impacts.
HARD TIMES: Sights like this man sprawled out at the Maclean CBD bus stop are a sobering reminder of its potential impacts.

Microscope on drinking



ALCOHOL use is widely accepted by Australians, so much so that its consumption is often stereotypically linked with our national identity.

But the obvious social benefits of alcohol's cultural acceptance are offset by the problems it can create when it is abused.

Yesterday, 400 randomly selected Grafton residents began receiving a survey from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre asking them to provide examples of the alcoholrelated problems they had encountered in the pub, on the street or at home.

The survey is part of a fiveyear study examining patterns of alcohol use and its associated harms in rural communities in New South Wales.

The survey's respondents will also be asked to offer suggestions on how social problems in Grafton, arising from drinking, could be solved.

One of the project's investigators, the University of New South Wales' Dr Anthony Shakeshaft, is hoping Grafton residents can offer valuable advice on how alcohol-related problems could be addressed in the Jacaranda City.

"It would be preferable to get the people who live in Grafton to tell us what they think the problems are and what they would like to see done about it," he said.

"Whether GPs should do more or whether hospitals or high schools could do more, whatever they think really."

The largest study of its kind ever undertaken in the world, Grafton is one of 10 randomly chosen communities involved in the study.

Dr Shakeshaft said Grafton's participation in the survey did not relate to any perceived problems with alcohol in the area.

"There are questions asking people whether they had seen problems at the pub or whether they had they ever seen anyone refused service because they were drunk."

Dr Shakeshaft said the survey results would be analysed and reported back to Grafton residents around August.



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