UOW program has people swearing off booze binges

A controlled drinking program at the University of Wollongong aims to help curb the Aussie drinking culture.

Unlike abstinence programs for those with very serious drinking problems, the university's program teaches moderation to people with a mild to moderate dependence on alcohol.

Provisional psychologist Carol Keane said the upcoming six-week program, run by the university's Northfields Clinic, aimed to restore participants' self-control over their drinking habits.

"There's a strong drinking culture throughout Australia, with recent statistics showing that 78 per cent of Australians believe there's a problem with excessive drinking," Ms Keane said.

"The program raises participants' awareness of their current patterns of drinking and what problems these might be causing.

"It also provides them with a range of alternatives and coping strategies so they can learn to moderate their drinking, without having to stop altogether."

Not getting involved in a "shout" at the pub; eating before drinking and only taking a set amount of money on a night out were some tactics for people finding it hard to control their alcohol intake.

"We want them to be aware of the health and safety risks associated with alcohol, not only in the long-term but also immediate effects like lack of inhibition and risk-taking behaviours," Ms Keane said.

The UOW program, which runs on Wednesday evenings starting on August 6, is in its second year and is producing positive results.

Ms Keane welcomed data last week, which revealed targeted education programs such as these were leading to a decline in risky drinking in Australia.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare's 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey showed the age at which 14-to-24-year-olds first tried alcohol rose from 14.4 to 15.7 years of age between 1998 and 2013.

The survey also found that compared with 2010, fewer people in Australia drank alcohol in quantities that exceeded the lifetime risk - from 20 per cent in 2010 to 18.2 per cent in 2013.

The proportion of those who exceeded the single-occasion risk guidelines at least once a month also declined significantly from 29 per cent in 2010 to 26 per cent in 2013.

Individuals can self-refer to the UOW program or get more information by contacting the Northfields Clinic on 4221 3747.

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