Australia Day Heralds Alcohol Mayhem

By Dirk Hanson 01/26/12

Today is Australia's national holiday, but celebrations routinely get out of hand.

Australia Day equals binge drinking
for many.
Photo via

If you live in Australia, today's your big moment. It’s Australia Day, the official national holiday and the biggest civic event of the year. But after studying 10 years' worth of records, Australia’s Drug and Alcohol Office announced that Australia Day might as well be known as Alcohol Mayhem Day. On this day, ambulances are twice as busy as normal, ferrying intoxicated under-25s to the hospital. According to Neil Guard, executive director of the Drug and Alcohol Office, "January the 26th is one of the worst days of the year for alcohol related violence, for assaults and for injuries." Last year, the government began experimenting with alcohol-free zones for the public event, and it's doing that again today. The beleaguered Mr. Guard told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation it's useful to remember that people can celebrate without drinking to excess. But it’s an uphill fight in a nation where binge drinking has long been tolerated—especially on Australia Day—and where the combination of booze and hot weather can make the problem worse. One factor working in sobriety’s favor this year: drenching rains down under, especially along the country’s heavily-populated East Coast. Brisbane’s festivities have been cancelled due to flood warnings.

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Dirk Hanson, MA, is a freelance science writer and the author of The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction. He is also the author of The New Alchemists: Silicon Valley and the Microelectronics Revolution. He has worked as a business and science reporter for numerous magazines and trade publications including Wired, Scientific American, The Dana Foundation and more. He currently edits the Addiction Inbox blog. Email: [email protected]