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Alcohol and Drug Foundation inspiring positive change

The Alcohol and Drug Foundation (ADF) was established in 1959 when a group of concerned citizens called for a coordinated community approach to address increased post-war alcohol use involving education, treatment and research.

Back then it was called the ‘Alcoholism Foundation of Victoria’ and over the decades through name changes, challenges and achievements, the ADF continues to evolve its programs in line with community needs.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ADF has been monitoring changes in alcohol and drug use across Australia. 

Increases in alcohol sales ranging from 5% to 23% were recorded every month from May to July 2020 with an associated increase in drinking by approximately 20% of Australians. 

More than three times as many people are drinking daily compared to pre-COVID-19 levels. Women and younger Australians (18-35) are more likely to have increased drinking. 

Illicit drugs are also reportedly being used more often by some people – mainly cannabis, benzodiazepines and meth/amphetamine. Some are being used less often – mainly MDMA (ecstasy) and cocaine. 

The impacts on our community are sadly predictable: Increased demand on family violence services and alcohol and other drug (AOD) treatment services. 

In Victoria, there was a 15.3% increase in family violence in June 2020 compared to the same time the previous year.  Family violence services in NSW also reported increased caseloads featuring alcohol. AOD treatment providers reported an increase in demand from new clients and increasing demand from relapsing ones. 

Case workers have also seen increased alcohol-related harms with the easing of restrictions in some parts of Australia. About half of those who increased alcohol use during lockdown are continuing to drink at risky levels and alcohol and drug-related presentations to hospital emergency departments (ED) are higher than the same time last year.  

As we move in to a ‘COVID normal’ environment, ADF are focussed on the need to support Australians to ensure that we do not see more alcohol and drug-related harm post COVID-19 than we existed before it. 

The message to the community is that support is available for people who may have increased alcohol and drug use during lockdown/s and want to reduce their use before new habits become bigger problems. 

They are also communicating the importance of recognising tolerance levels may have dropped during lockdown and to be careful over holiday periods, such as Easter, as people return to using alcohol and drugs in social settings. Messages like ‘start low, go slow’ are important. 

Longer term ADF will continue their work to strengthen factors that are known to protect against alcohol and drug-related harms. This includes supporting communities across Australia to build connections and social cohesion; encouraging younger people to engage in organised structured activities like sport; and, reinforcing the important role that parents and other adults have as role models for younger Australians.
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