The government will try to reduce excessive drinking in Japan, according to a draft plan to be endorsed by the Cabinet in May. The government says it will establish at least one medical institution specializing in alcoholism in each prefecture, while setting numerical targets to reduce the lifestyle-related diseases that result from heavy drinking. The initiative, while welcome, comes late in a country where alcohol-related health problems are all too common.
The government plan is good, as far as it goes, but remains insufficient to counter the devastating effects of widespread alcohol abuse. A health ministry survey in 2013 estimated that 800,000 people are seriously addicted to alcohol and nearly 10 million people have a potential dependency problem. The number of those receiving treatment is less than 50,000.
The government wants to reduce the percentage of excessive drinkers among male adults to 13 percent by fiscal 2020, down from 15.8 percent in 2014. It also seeks to lower the percentage of female heavy drinkers to 6.4 percent from 8.8 percent. These targets are achievable, but far from enough.