Opening the cap on alcohol abuse

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Islanders like to drink, that we know for certain. If we didn’t, the Prince Edward Island Liquor Control Commission wouldn’t be selling an estimated $100 million of booze this year.

People drink for lots of reasons – good and bad. It has become an accepted practice in our society, and has been for a long time. It’s not a crime to drink alcohol in this country and many, as we can see from the revenue numbers, do. But, while the majority of people (arguably) drink responsibly, there are those that do not, or cannot.

It’s a problem that has not gone unnoticed by Medical Society of P.E.I.

At the group’s 159th annual meeting this past weekend, the issue was at the forefront of discussions.

Dr. Jerry O’Hanley, co-chairman of the health care and promotion committee, noted the issue of alcohol addiction is a huge one in this province and it is not going away anytime soon. He says the ability to even define the scope of the problem is problematic.

O’Hanley said part of the issue is, as a country, Canadians consume more alcohol per capita than most other countries and P.E.I. has a higher binge drinking rate than the rest of Canada.

In fact, ranking at 26th (of 34) on a chart by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development of global alcohol consumption amongst its members, Canada is not quite a leader in the area of drinking, but we are not at a level beyond concern.

Dr. Chris Simpson, president-elect of the Canadian Medical Association, shared O’Hanley’s concerns. He said there is an insidious nature to alcohol addiction.

The truth is, as Dr. David Bannon said, alcohol is so readily available in society and has been so habituated and accepted, it’s hard to deal with the damaging effects.

Alcoholism is so well hidden by those it controls, and so covered up by ashamed friends and family, that it’s unlikely we will ever know just how bad it is. But that shouldn’t stop us from trying to find out.

The fact that an organization such as the Medical Society of P.E.I. is now addressing it as a major concern is a promising first step. We need to get the discussion going. Not unlike what is happening in the area of mental health. Until we do that, things will only get worse.

Kudos to the medical society for the resolution discussed to request the P.E.I. Department of Health and Wellness address alcohol abuse in the province and to promote consuming safer levels of alcohol consumption.


Organizations: Medical Society of P.E.I., Organization for Economic Co, Canadian Medical Association PEI Department

Geographic location: Canada

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