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Book Review   |    
Choudahry Patel
Psychiatric Services 2008; doi:
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edited by Gerry Stimson, Marcus Grant, Marie Choquet, and Preston Garrison; New York, Brunner, Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2006, 264 pages, $49.95

Dr. Patel is a psychiatrist at the Westboro State Hospital, Westboro, Massachusetts.

Chief editor Gerry Stimson and authors from such diverse organizations as the International Center for Alcohol Policies, the World Bank, the Universities of Queensland, Australia, Hong Kong, Seinan Gakuin, Japan, and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine have painstakingly presented a fresh look at the old problem of alcoholism. Even though much has been written on the subject, this volume was commissioned by the International Center for Alcohol Policies with assistance from the World Federation for Mental Health, the International Harm Reduction Association, and the Institut de Recherches Scientifiques sur les Boissons. The result is a rather new and comprehensive way of approaching alcohol and alcoholism.

This volume examines historical, cultural, social, and economical aspects of drinking; health benefits and its harm; the burden on society; the difficulty of forging effective partnerships; and perspectives on sustainable policies for alcohol production, consumption, and regulation. Drinking in Context provides a wealth of information for any policy maker. Included are exhaustive lists of references at the end of each chapter. There are easy-to-follow tables and boxed bold sections of core points on the subject discussed in each chapter. The section "Alcohol and the Global Burden of Disease: Methodical Issues" crystallizes the main points of the volume.

Drinking in Context also throws light on the current understanding of alcohol's effects on teenagers. These effects include drunk driving, risky sexual behavior and the possibility ofspreading sexually transmitted diseases, and other negative health consequences. The underlying theme is harm reduction, and the book examines feasibility of various interventions for teenagers.

The reader is drawn back again and again to the challenges that governments face in gathering reliable data, assessing evidence-based interventions, studying the feasibility of population-based interventions, and legislating sustainable policies. The authors acknowledge that they pose more questions than they answer.

The authors could not emphasize enough the value of partnerships between different, sometimes competing, governmental agencies to achieve sustainable policies. This point is worth repeating, but because many contributors were commissioned to present their approaches, the reader may find some points unnecessarily repeated throughout the book.

Drinking in Context is relatively easy reading for a serious topic covered in depth. The volume is an excellent source of information for anyone interested in understanding the global issues posed by alcohol.

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