BACKGROUND: Alcohol is Australia's most socially acceptable legal drug; however alcohol-related harms have increased significantly over time. Encouraging safer levels of alcohol consumption should be a national health priority and a key focus for health practitioners. OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this paper is to discuss some of the reasons that alcohol is such a popular and valued commodity in Australia, as well as some of the common problems caused by alcohol. We outline the most effective policy and treatment approaches to reduce alcohol consumption and related harms. DISCUSSION: Research evidence suggests that the most effective policies for reducing alcohol consumption and related harms are those focused on restricting its availability and accessibility; however, such strategies are often not implemented or enforced for political and economic reasons. Undertaking screening and brief intervention are effective ways of addressing problematic alcohol consumption within primary care and can be further supported through promoting community-organised periods of abstinence.