Sometimes, there are things that feel contradictory. Sometimes, there is an awareness of irony.
To tell the truth, I was looking forward to the Ready to be Thirsty challenge. I was feeling low energy and overweight, and I wanted a chance to ‘dry out’. In twelve days, I’ve already lost weight and I feel really good. No kidding.
And there are a bunch of people out there doing the challenge at the same time, and we are working – individually, collectively – to stay alcohol-free for the month of February.
Yet, this morning read an article about wine in grocery stores from Martin Cohn in the Toronto Star, and I feel like the mountain grows taller as the climber is upon it. Like trying to ice-skate uphill. Like swimming a bunch of pineapples out to Hawaii. Like an oil-field worker in Alberta, perhaps.
There’s no denying that alcohol is a business, and this is just another in a series of decisions to stimulate the alcohol industry and create growth in Ontario. I don’t know – perhaps Ontarians are happy (or indifferent) to see beer and wine in grocery stores. But we know that increased access equals increased consumption and harms and costs. To the health care system. To lives – you know, like…people, children, us.
It seems ironic to me that we can be working hard as individuals to control, or learn about our own alcohol consumption…and we have an industry working hard to shove alcohol to the top of the shopping list. Even though the risks of moderate to heavy consumption are massive, well-known and being broadcast farther.
Alcohol causes cancer. So does tobacco. If we were seeing the same work to expand access to cigarettes, there would be protests and outrage.
Photo by Robert Terrell via Flickr. Creative Commons. No changes.
A lifelong relationship with alcohol…..
That’s what researchers are touting as the consequence of regular teenage drinking.
Essentially, the scoop is that once you begin to drink heavily as a young person, you maintain your (binge) drinking habits as a twenty-something, and this leads to long term consequences.
Short-term consequences of alcohol we all remember from our (binge-drinking) youth:
- Falls and spills, reckless behaviour
- Aggression, crime, fistfights
- Drinking and Driving
- Unwanted sexual advances, regretful sex, pregnancy
But it’s those long term consequences from our ‘ongoing relationship’ that many of us don’t think about:
Maybe you have a binge-drinking teenage kid. Or maybe you were that kid. What’s your relationship with alcohol? Is it healthy, or could the two of you be looking for a way to redefine yourselves?
Has your health care provider been asking you about your alcohol intake lately? It may be because of the release of this new physican tool.
Screening Brief Intervention and Referral (SBIR): Helping Patients Reduce Alcohol-related Risks and Harms is a new resource for Canadian family physicians, nurse practitioners and other healthcare professionals.
Their website http://www.sbir-diba.ca/ provides access to evidence-informed guidance and resources to assist in helping patients better manage their alcohol consumption.
Alcohol use, even at low levels, is associated with several forms of cancer, and cardiovascular, liver and pancreatic disease. Alcohol is also linked to dependence and mental health problems, and affects communities through injury, violence, impaired driving and related harms.
If they haven’t been asking – should they be?
Here’s a disturbing experiment. Go to Google. Type in ‘drunk girls’. Then click Images. What you’ll discover is a collection of shocking, embarrassing and disturbing images that will lead you to believe that there is a very troublesome alcohol culture out there for young women.
In the Toronto Star on March 14th an article detailed how alcohol is being marketed aggressively to young women. Columnist Judith Timson provides insight and commentary on the fallout from this recently heightened phenomenon. To echo her sentiment, as girls succumb to these psychological and social pressures, they are subjected to immense risk: sexual assault, risk of injury, and heightened risk for diseases such as cancer and liver disease.
Women are seen today as a growth market – a financial opportunity for alcohol companies to increase sales. These companies have developed many campaigns specifically aimed at women. They have sugary drinks (‘alcopops’), wine with names like Girls Night Out and Strut, and accompanying images and commercials spouting female empowerment and female fun.
The consequence of this kind of marketing (to both women and men) is an evolving trend of permissiveness and risk acceptance that needs to be addressed. Alcohol marketers have a proven track record of alcohol glorification. Check out those images on Google and see how glorious it really is…
So, you’re old enough to have a child heading off to university or college for the first time. And you’re probably young enough to remember your own early experiences with alcohol – and you may be pretty worried.
Our children learn by example – your example. What have you been showing them about drinking alcohol?
The CCSA recently introduced the low risk alcohol drinking guidelines to help people make smart and healthy decisions about their alcohol consumption. Drinking beyond these guidelines can do more than just get you drunk – it can put you at risk of developing a chronic disease such as heart disease, diabetes and certain types of cancers.
Does that make you think a little differently about binge drinking, which is defined as:
• consuming 5 or more drinks on one occasion for men
• consuming 4 or more drinks on one occasion for women
So now you know the risks. What will you be showing your Frosh kids about alcohol?
It’s pretty hard to turn on the radio or open a newspaper without hearing or reading about the sad state of the economy. So it’s no surprise that businesses are looking for innovative ways to stay in the game, including adding the sale of alcohol.
Recently a couple of local businesses, including a hair salon and a cinema, have received press for becoming licensed to serve alcohol. Both are independent businesses as opposed to large franchises or chains, and both are located in an area that has its work cut out for it when competing with big box and mall locations. It can’t be easy.
That said, when you can get a drink at the hockey game, the ball game, the theatre, as well as the hair salon and maybe even the cinema, one has to wonder what kind of a message we are sending to our children. How do we teach them about the increased risk of chronic diseases, including stroke and cancer, about low-risk drinking, and about the importance of moderation, when we continue to allow the slow creep of alcohol into more and more aspects of our lives? People need to make a living, but don’t families and children also need alcohol-free spaces that encourage a culture of moderation?
I was recently watching Dr. Oz when his assistant of the day said that she missed her youth from the 1960’s and loved going on dates, to parties, and drinking socially. Dr. Oz said that the most popular drink in the 1960’s was brandy and his assistant said that she loved Brandy Alexanders – she said they tasted like an ice cream soda. Today, the liquor of choice is vodka. So which is better for your health: brandy or vodka? Dr. Oz said that brandy is better because it is high in antioxidants and protects against heart disease and cancer. The rich color of brandy is a sign that it is packed with antioxidants.
I was most upset when I viewed this episode, which I felt promoted brandy drinking without limit! Dr. Oz, why did you not mention the importance of drinking in moderation? Research shows that alcohol is a carcinogen, has no protective factor when it comes to cancer and is only beneficial for the cardiovascular system when consumed daily in small doses, which is less than one standard drink.