The Japan Times reports that Japanese local and national government bodies are working together on a new law designed to deal with problems related to alcohol abuse. It is estimated that 800,000 people suffer from alcohol dependency requiring treatment in Japan and that excessive drinking costs the country ¥4.15 trillion yearly (over $686 trillion).
While detailed measures are yet to be determined, this is an important step in spreading public awareness of alcohol dependency as an illness in a culture where, “drinking tends to be promoted as a virtue” and where addiction is sometimes, “misunderstood as a problem resulting from a person’s weak character.” The agenda includes improving medical examinations, increasing counseling for alcoholics, and getting tough about drunk driving. The wide-reaching health law is being implemented in response to the World Health Organization’s Global Strategy to Reduce the Harmful Use of Alcohol. [The Japan Times]