A Brave New Way Home

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As the Toronto Star reported last year, there is no lack of controversy as the Way Home festival hits the Orillia area.   This is massive music festival coming to Burl’s Creek, a big open-ground event center, just north of the city.

Complaints from local citizens include the volume of the music, zoning violations when the grounds are used for camping, the re-purposing of prime farmland, garbage, traffic, and other problems.  Essentially, the controversy has been rolling since the property was purchased by its new owners and enlarged.  Check out the highlights from last year:

What’s more, there’s Boots and Hearts, a huge country music festival that comes in August.  Check out the ‘movie trailer’-style video:

Obviously, these are gigantic parties.  Whether or not local citizens are happy with the events in their backyards, it’s obvious that mass gatherings are places for much raucous behavior, drinking and debauchery.  There wouldn’t be much fun at these types of events if those elements were missing.  But yet, we know that alcohol is a BIG part of the down and dirty, and wherever alcohol lives in mass quantities, we have the potential for harm.   Violence, injury, overdose.

This raises the larger issue as to where where social and individual responsibility meet in regards to alcohol.  Do the consequences of consumption belong exclusively to the drinker, or do they also belong to the planners and organizers of the social context, where alcohol is deeply embedded and entrenched?

Yo Ho ! There be warnings ahead

 

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There are rumblings from the far side o’ the future that we may end up with warning labels on our alcoholic beverages.   Which might be interesting, considering there is advocacy for nutrition labels as well.  You know – highlighting all those ’empty calories’ – energy without nutrition.

I am no expert on the law, but considering what I do know about legislation, I’ll guess the reason you have a listing of ingredients and calories on a Pizza Pop  but not on a beer…is because, legally speaking, beer is not Food !  Food has the potential to provide your body with important sustenance, vitamins, protein.  Whereas beer is….well, you know what beer is.

Labels to better enrich our understanding of what we are getting up to and in to when we drink has been studied, such as in the video above from Global News.  If certain advocacy groups succeed (such as health agencies who want you to live long and prosper) – you’ll be see labels like the ones below, as highlighted by CTV.

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The question is whether these kinds of labels are effective in changing drinking behaviors.  I think it’s fair to say that they raise awareness about the issue, as they are so graphic as to be unavoidable and unmistakable.

But they would be just one piece of a change in our social philosophy regarding alcohol – where it begins with more persons working to have more non-drinking days, as part of the Low Risk Drinking Guidelines.

 

Summer Cometh with Booze in Hand

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Here comes summer, and we’re about to see our favorite activities come to life.  Camping. Swimming.  Festivals and music.  The Beach.  Canoeing. Hiking. Boating. Water-skiing.  Backyard parties and get together’s – Family Reunions.  Okay, maybe that’s not your favorite, but whatever you like to get up to in the summer…I am sure that you’ll notice that so many of these activities have one thing in common – booze.

Summer never met a drink it didn’t like!

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When the weather is fine, you got drinkin’, you got drinkin’ on your mind!

Sure, we understand the impulse to let loose, to relax, to enjoy sunny weather and vacations.   But when we encourage restraint (and we’re just about to), we do so for the good of your health.  And of course, there’s a reductionist theory out there that as long as we don’t drink and drive, nothing is amiss.

This couldn’t be farther from the truth – such oversimplification.  Drinking and driving, while idiotic and dangerous, is only one measure of a complex and multi-layered alcohol mosaic, that includes cancer, injuries and falls, impulsiveness leading to sex, STI’s and unwanted pregnancy, aggression, dependence.

At least one of those things you’ve seen.  And if none of the above apply, how about over-eating, needless calories, rash thoughts turned into regretful words, embarrassment, or relationships put under strain…?  Alcohol has many impacts beyond laughter and reduced inhibitions.  And you kinda know it, but your go there anyway – because it’s a habit, or you love it, or it’s what expected, or all three.

So when your vacation or your weekend or your afternoon at the cottage begins…we encourage you to enjoy in moderation, mostly because you know you should, most of the time. To adhere, if you can, to the low-risk drinking guidelines.  Yes – by all means – enjoy your vacation.  You deserve it.

Relax.  Read.  Ponder. Indulge.  Bask in the glow of the sunset and forget every thought.   But also, please, for you…when you crack open that Chianti…come back around and think.  You deserve that too.

Truth in Advertising ??

A compelling documentary on alcohol is attached to this Blog.  It’s long-ish, but maybe you’ll find it as fascinating as I did.

After all – the ‘truth’ in regards to alcohol is a complex one. We’ve got it sold by huge corporate entities, or used as liquid leverage to stimulate tourism.  We love to drink it at parties and gatherings, we use to amplify emotion, and to celebrate and to commiserate.

We are addicted to it…as individuals, and as a society who seems to want it ever more varied and available.

It correlates with crime and violence.

It creates disease.

It facilitates a party.

It shores up confidence (or is it impulsiveness?)

Alcohol has very complex and interwoven truths that filter down through every layer of our society and social lives.  It generates interesting and wild stories.  Some such stories have tragic endings.

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Acting on Impulse

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As they often are, they are doing studies.

This time, the Wall Street Journal reports on how alcohol affects our food-related decision making.  It appears that alcohol consumption creates impulsiveness that might add to our waistlines.  Evidently, booze makes us reach for extra food, chips, snacks, salty and crispy things, grease.

When we drink, we engage in reckless behaviour compared to our sober selves.  We eat.  And…we say things we might not have otherwise.  We take risks.  We use poorer judgement.  We might have encounters of the sensual and physical variety. We react more emotionally.

There’s a science to this…but I think we knew this already.  Alcohol and the next day hangover meal – where one might head to McDonalds or a greasy spoon for breakfast – is a ritual for some.  And the street-meat vendors outside the clubs take advantage of our late evening quick reach for grub. Heck, I thought that’s why Mr. Sub would even bother staying open so late…the after-the-bar-closes-down traffic.

Alcohol ignites our limbic system.  This means we are subject to hyper-emotional states, and our memory can be impaired.  Alcohol also affects our cerebral cortex, impairing our senses, and shutting down areas in our brain responsible for reasoning and good judgement.  Is it any wonder we might then reach for the corn chips?

 

The Consequences of Cool

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There’s a recent article on the CBC talking about how the Craft beer industry might be fueling addiction.  An interesting subject, considering the Craft beer industry here in Ontario is similarly exploding.

Certainly, where there is growth in the alcohol industry, where there is growth in accessibility, where there is growth in social acceptability, there is the correlation of increased use, and therefore, the possibility of dependence and addiction.  We know this from research (that’s a bit dry and long – but it’s solid and scientifically sound).

In the article, there’s some cross-talk about how craft beer can’t be fueling addiction because people are drinking all this fancy beer for the taste, the experience.  Perhaps the same logic would apply then, to scotch or wine aficionados – after all, aren’t they too consuming for the sake of coolness, for the sake of hipster-ism and all the cultural gusto…?

The truth of the matter is that while our motives to drink vary greatly, the outcome can often be the same – drinking to the point of over-consumption, whether one is tippling too much at a sitting, or just too frequently.  The consequences are also there in the research…chronic disease, cancer-risk, high-blood pressure.

A related article talks about drinking on campuses – college kids getting off on the wrong foot with alcohol.  Imagine – college kids partying and binge drinking…never!  Yes, it’s true, our relationship with alcohol starts young and carries on into adulthood, middle-age and further.  If we think it’s cool either because it’s a crafty, watermelon-infused, triple-hopped lager…or it’s a bottle of 1992 California Super-Fruit Cab-Sav…or it’s a sip of a 27-year old peaty Glen-wherever scotch….  As soon as you believe it’s cool, you’re more likely to want it, try it, drink it, indulge in it.  And coolness leads where it leads.

Risky Business!

It’s been a while since we’ve showed the Low Risk Drinking Guidelines and one of those cool, slightly accelerated Sharpie videos.  This one talks about how to conceptualize drinks.  How to count, really.

We can limit the damage from alcohol upon our lives, our health and our culture, if we simply become more conscious of our consumption.

We’ve been convinced by big media that drinking is sexy, fun, cool…and we see these images in movies, television commercials and in print media. But when we look at alcohol more objectively, we discover that intoxication and drunkenness are very far from those things.    Think about how big drinkers handle themselves in social situations, or within periods of stress.

Tragically, when we look at big consumers of alcohol we may discover aggression, slovenliness, habitual escapism, emotional instability.   We discover chronic illness, ravaged immune systems and worn-out livers and kidneys.  Sadly, we commonly discover pain.

More hopefully, if we learn to manage our consumption, and not pair it with our vulnerabilities, we can help ourselves.  We can create habits grounded in reality, instead of images fabricated to sell booze.  We can enjoy it, truly, and find that reasonable limits actually help to polish the good times.