The Alcohol Mandatory Treatment Act: evidence, ethics and the law

Fiona Lander, Dennis Gray and Edward Wilkes
Med J Aust 2015; 203 (1): 47-49. || doi: 10.5694/mja15.00173


  • The Northern Territory Alcohol Mandatory Treatment Act 2013 (AMT Act) permits mandatory residential alcohol rehabilitation for up to 3 months.
  • International guidelines and human rights law confirm that mandatory rehabilitation should only be used for short periods.
  • Evidence concerning the efficacy of long-term mandatory alcohol rehabilitation is lacking, and minimal data concerning the efficacy of the scheme have been released.
  • Specific legal issues also arise concerning the AMT Act, including its potentially discriminatory application to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
  • The program only permits referral by police, despite the fact that it is ostensibly a medical intervention. Use of a treatment as a method of effectively solving a public intoxication problem is highly dubious, and should be of concern to the medical community.
  • Given that more cost-effective and proven measures exist to combat alcohol dependence, the utility of the AMT Act is questionable.

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  • Fiona Lander1
  • Dennis Gray2
  • Edward Wilkes2

  • 1 Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Mass, USA.
  • 2 National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, WA.


We acknowledge Russell Goldflam, Ben Schokman and Ruth Barson for their assistance in preparing and reviewing this article. The National Drug Research Institute at Curtin University is supported by funding from the Australian Government under the Substance Misuse Prevention and Service Improvement Grants Fund.

Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.

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