Alcohol is killing Canadian women at dramatically increasing rates.
In May of 2018, the Canadian Institute for Health Information reported a sobering 26 per cent rate increase of alcohol-related deaths in women since 2001. Girls 10 to 19 had higher hospital rates than boys their age.[i]
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, addressed her concern that the deadly risks of alcohol are being overlooked because of its social acceptance in her 2018 report on the state of public health in Canada.[ii]
One of the six main areas of focus for Dr. Tam is the use of cannabis, opioids and alcohol because of the fact that the average life expectancy of Canadians may actually be decreasing. More men still die of alcohol and drug related causes.
“We have to think about how to reverse these trends for future generations,” Tam stated.
Marketing and availability are known contributors, and women have been the target: the jokes on napkins about how drinking is the answer to alleviating the pain of dealing with annoying husbands, and the signs that point to how all problems can be solved at wine-o-clock. It’s funny, until it’s not.
It has come to be expected that drinks will flow at almost any girls-night-out, even those that at one time would have been alcohol free. Some hair salons and spas are now offering customers a drink with their service. What is missing are the warnings that the long and short-term effects on women happen more rapidly than for men – not only due to size.
Harmful use is associated with diseases of the liver, brain and heart and the cause of many types of cancer, including breast and colorectal. It is a leading cause of death and disability worldwide.[iii]
Reduced Consumption = Reduced Cancer Risk
Alcoholic beverages have been a known carcinogenic for years, and scientists are now proving how through its effects on DNA.[iv] It is grouped with substances such as asbestos and smoking, yet lack the warning labels that are mandatory for the same category of cancer causing agents.
There are no positive benefits of alcohol use and the prevention of cancer.[v] As alcohol consumption goes up, so does one’s risk of developing cancer types such as breast, colorectal, esophagus, larynx, liver, oral cavity and pharynx.[vi] Light consumption has been shown to decrease some heart-health risks, but as soon as the limits are crossed, any potential benefits are erased.
The effects of excessive alcohol use show physically in yellow-tinged jaundiced skin and eyes, and through either weight gain from a “fatty-liver” or extreme weight loss. Because it is a progressive disease, one becomes slowly, yet increasingly ill as each organ is affected.
The initial tendency towards denial is perhaps because of the slow, yet deadly, advancing damage to many of the body’s organs and the brain. The good news is that recovery also holds a promising progression – through sobriety one day at a time.
There is a difference between saying, “I am alcoholic” and saying “I am a drunk.” The first phrase is realizing you have a progressive disease and need help to heal, the second is continuing to feed the disease that you know is killing you.
After the onset, an alcoholic has four choices. These are not only important for the alcoholic to know, but for family members and loved ones to also understand:
1. Continue to drink and end up in jail.
2. Continue to drink and end up in an asylum.
3. Continue to drink and die.
4. Stop drinking.
Canada’s low-risk alcohol intake recommendations are that women have no more than 10 drinks per week, with no more than two drinks a day. For men the maximum is 15 drinks per week, with no more than three drinks a day. Medication interactions, health conditions and genetics should be taken into consideration.[vii]
The first steps in a twelve step program involve admittance and surrender. Admittance of an individual’s powerlessness and surrendering to the insanity – yes insanity of wanting more of a substance that is ruining your life – to a Power greater than his or her own, through support from those who know first-hand.
It is difficult for any human to admit powerlessness let alone insanity, and yet according the the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2012 over five and-a-half per cent of all global deaths were attributable to alcohol consumption, and yet drinking is on the rise.[viii] In 2015 the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) stated “harmful alcohol use” as the number one cause of death and disability.[ix]
Onset varies from person to person, some may even have a genetic factor. Perhaps it was to escape the pain after a death of a loved one, a job loss or other tragic event. Maybe it started while going through or during the unhappy marriage. Or it could have been the good times that were taken too far too many times in a work-hard-play-hard world.
After hitting rock-bottom, often more than once, this admittance may be the first time an alcoholic feels hopefully alive instead of just trying to survive. The best thing family members and loved ones can do is also admit to the extent of the problem and refrain from feeding any denial, no matter how hard it is to believe.
Besides joining in on Dry January and Sober October, for many reasons, including the new cannabis option, there is a growing number of millennials who are opting out of the drink. Ontario has recently joined the “sober bar” trend that has been growing in Europe and the United States over the past decade. Although Alberta has not yet joined in on the trend, I raise my glass of grape juice to a toast and a cheers to a healthier 2019 – one day at a time.
With our many freedoms of choice, the greatest freedom for one who suffers from addiction is obtained through sobriety.