90% of city’s policing calls from alcohol, Smith

Kenora’s Sharon Smith is pushing for more sustainable funding from the province to support public health units and municipalities, as the region deals with skyrocketing policing rates and poor health outcomes. Smith says that alcohol abuse is a major contributing factor.

The city councillor and vice-chair of the Northwestern Board of Health made a presentation to Ontario’s finance minister last week in Kenora, as part of Ontario’s pre-budget consultations detailing some of the city’s struggles.

Notably, Smith says that the city has it “on good information” that over 90 per cent of all policing calls in the City of Kenora are to address alcohol abuse. Smith did not reveal her source of the information during the presentation.

“Mental health and addiction issues are better-managed as public health issues, not criminal issues. We are paying police to do short-term work that has little impact on the challenges that we face.”

She adds that the City of Kenora is one of six communities in the province, where policing costs are over $600 per household. The per household cost for the OPP’s services in Kenora is roughly $749.

Smith used these financial figures to show how difficult it’s been for municipalities to absorb additional costs from the province, including the merger of public health units, with municipalities now expected to pick up more of the costs.

She lobbied Finance Minister Rod Phillips for sustainable funding to address the population’s health needs, and to restore the previous 75 per cent to 25 per cent funding split between the province and municipalities.

“Our region has the worst health outcomes in the province. This is due in part to higher rates of health complications that result in illness, partly because of social determinants of health that affect our region.”

“We face difficult social challenges in our communities, many are directly related to, or rooted in historical colonial relationship with our Indigenous communities, including the legacy of residential schools, the 60s Scoop and the resulting trauma.”

“We are working in partnership with our Indigenous neighbours to help build capacity in their communities, and are walking the path of reconciliation together. We need provincial partnerships to make lives better in our communities.”

Smith adds that roughly 36 per cent of all children between the ages of zero and 17 in the Kenora District, live in low-income households.


It’s time we talk about the link between crime and alcohol

Going one step further, the Western Cape Injury Mortality Survey (2006 to 2016) highlighted that there is a relationship between alcohol and homicides.

The report highlighted that alcohol results were available for 80% of homicide deaths and that of those, 50% of homicide deaths tested positive for alcohol. That means that alcohol plays significant role in the number of homicides in the province.

What’s more, over two-thirds of homicides occurred between 5pm on a Friday evening and 4am on a Monday morning, hours when individuals are most likely to be consuming alcohol.

Over 70% of homicide cases that occurred over weekends tested positive for alcohol.  The report concluded that violence and alcohol abuse, particularly among young men, are the biggest contributors to the province’s high injury mortality burden.

Similarly, the WHO’s report, titled “Preventing violence by reducing the availability and harmful use of alcohol”, found that in Diadema, Brazil, a significant number of murders took place in areas with high concentrations of drinking establishments and that violence against women was often linked to alcohol.

To address this, a strictly enforced municipal law and public information campaign were implemented in 2002. This prevented alcohol retailers from selling alcohol after 23:00.

Retailers were informed of the law and legal consequences. Consequently, homicides were reduced by almost nine per month, preventing an estimated 319 homicides over three years. Assaults against women decreased over the same period.

In the Western Cape, such pioneering initiatives are driven through the Western Cape Liquor Authority (WCLA). While more can always be done to improve the WCLA and its impact, it has already made tremendous strides.

For instance, through the Alcohol Harms Reduction Games Changer, three additional Inspectors were appointed at the WCLA. Previously, there were only seven Liquor Inspectors. The lack of inspectors hampered effective law enforcement within the liquor industry.

The lack of law enforcement meant that more liquor was consumed and the likelihood of alcohol related violence would increase. The Department of Community Safety set aside R2.9 million in 2017/18, to appoint the additional inspectors.

This ensured that during the 4th quarter of 2018/19, 44 settlement notices, which entails the perpetrator accepting the contravention and not disputing it, were issued to the value of R595 000.

This indicated a substantial increase from the 17 settlement notices issued in the third quarter and has helped to address violence caused by alcohol within affected communities. The contracts of these Inspectors have been extended for a period of 12 months for the 2019/20 financial year.

There can be no doubt that the consumption of alcohol is linked to crime. As part of the comprehensive Safety Plan announced by Premier Winde, I will in the coming months address the issue of alcohol harm reduction strategies.

This will include reviewing a number issues, including that of legislation, pricing, enforcement of regulations and stricter measures for infringements.




From binge drinking to blacking out, the disturbing epidemic putting America’s kids in danger

On America’s college campuses, there are epidemics we talk about and those we don’t. There’s sexual assault. There are fraternity hazing deaths. And in both cases, the attention of the nation usually turns to these issues only after a tragedy has occurred… after Penn State freshman Timothy Piazza dies from consuming 18 drinks in 82 minutes… after Brock Turner sexually assaults an unconscious woman behind a dumpster at Stanford…

Look deeper, however, and these epidemics have something in common: the pervasive and problematic drinking culture among American youth.

“When you have almost 2,000 kids a year dying that are college-aged kids on college campuses, I’m surprised that those statistics are not out there in a bigger way and that colleges aren’t owning that a little bit more,” says clinical social worker Julie Fenn in the CBSN Originals documentary, “Drinking Culture: American Kids and the Danger of Being Cool.” “If there were 2,000 kids dying for, you know, a brain disease or the flu or something, we would be all over that.”

In the current pop culture environment, binge drinking has not only become normalized, it’s become a marker of social status.

“People do have that conception that the more you can drink, the cooler you are,” says Alex Artaza, a college student at Nova Southeastern University in Florida.

“Girls who could handle their alcohol are seen as a lot cooler and a lot more interesting than girls who can’t,” concurs Kaeli Van Cott, a 23-year-old social media manager in New York City. “People would encourage in college like, ‘We need to drink, we need to pregame, we need to go out.’ … Guys who can handle their alcohol were seen as cool and girls who could keep up were invited in.”

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as four drinks for women and five drinks for men over the span of two hours. In the United States today, however, college students often consume two or three times that amount.

And while it used to be that men were much more likely to binge drink than women, that gender gap is rapidly closing, with rates of alcohol use and binge drinking now on the rise in women and girls.

For the documentary, “Drinking Culture,” CBSN Originals visited the University of Wisconsin–Madison, one of the most notorious party schools in America, to speak with students there about the amounts and sorts of drinking that are now considered normal.

Gretchen Schroder, a 21-year-old senior, told producers that the most she’s had to drink in a night was 15 drinks. When pressed on what that was like, and whether or not she remembered that night, she shook her head, laughed a little bit, and replied, “No. I blacked out.”

The NIAAA defines blacking out as a period “of amnesia during which a person actively engages in behaviors like walking and talking but does not create memories for these events as they transpire. …  Depending on how impaired the brain regions involved in decisionmaking and impulse control are, the missing events could range from mundane behaviors, like brushing teeth, to dangerous and traumatic events like driving a car, getting into a fight, or committing — or being the victim of — a sexual assault or other crime.”

While many parents probably blissfully assume that this sort of alcohol-induced stupor is a rarity, all of the young Americans who appear in the CBSN Originals doc, “Drinking Culture,” told producers that they have either blacked out themselves or witnessed their peers blacking out on numerous occasions.

“I’ve seen a lot of people black out,” says Van Cott. “I can’t even give you a defined number. … People brag about that as if it’s something that’s cool to do. Like, ‘I’m totally going to black out tonight.'”

Not only does this sort of normalized underage drinking behavior put American teens at greater risk of physical injury and sexual assault, experts point out that there are biological consequences to drinking in excess before the brain is done developing.

“What we’ve seen with data is that if you start drinking at age 13 or 14, drinking full drinks, that that is associated with a five times greater risk of developing an alcohol use problem or disorder compared to if you start at age 21 or older,” explains Dr. Sion Harris, an associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.

“We’re also seeing that there are impacts on the development of what we call wiring of the brain. One of the things that really is important that’s happening in the brain during the adolescent years is kind of the connecting up of different brain areas. And the reason that that’s so important is that in order for us to have a really sharp brain, fast processing, and healthy functioning, different parts of the brain have to work together, and that is developing through adolescence,” she explained.

“When the brain is exposed to things like alcohol, marijuana, other drugs, that seems to impact how the brain gets wired up and that can impact our ability to learn, our ability to make smart decisions, our ability to regulate our emotions.”

Binge drinking affects young Americans both in ways we can see and in ways we can’t, and advocates say we really need to take a hard look at the root of the problem.

“We have to challenge and change that culture, that thinking that it’s normal behavior,” said Julie Fenn.

And she adds a cautionary note for parents: “I think there is that stereotypic belief that, ‘not my kid. I’m a good parent. My kids would never do that.’ I think all of our kids are at risk. And I can say that honestly, as a parent of three, it doesn’t matter what your profession is, no child is protected.”


Removal of alcohol restrictions brings trouble to Kugluktuk

A greater volume of alcohol is flowing into Kugluktuk and the RCMP has had respond to a growing number of alcohol-related complaints.

There were 143 more police files relating to liquor in the first five months of 2019 than in the first five months of 2018. Alcohol restrictions were officially repealed in the community on Dec. 14, following an Oct. 22 plebiscite in which 60.8 per cent of voters were in favour.

“We expected it to hit a peak sometime this spring but we’ve never seen that peak drop yet,” said Mayor Ryan Nivingalok. “Some people have got to remember that they have to learn how to consume their alcohol and drink responsibly.”

Data from the territorial Department of Finance shows a rising volume of alcohol being ordered into the community since December, reaching 2,194 litres in March.

Kugluktuk MLA Mila Kamingoak said she has advocated in the legislative assembly for education campaigns in schools and through community meetings to give people a better understanding of the dangers of alcohol and cannabis. She’d also like to see posters and commercials in place to help create broader awareness.

“It’s something we have to learn from as we go along,” Kamingoak said.

Nivingalok said he remains hopeful this is a period of “growing pains.” He referred to Baker Lake MLA Simeon Mikkungwak, who told Nunavut News that he was informed by residents in Rankin Inlet that it took a while for things to “settle down” in that community after alcohol restrictions were lifted.

Baker Lake voted in January 2018 to remove its liquor limitations and the measure took effect in April. Mikkungwak said the RCMP and Family Services staff were “overwhelmed” by the resulting workload in the following months. Although he said it wasn’t “all negative,” he said there were more visibly drunken people in the streets.

Prior to Dec. 14 in Kugluktuk, the Alcohol Education Committee, comprising local residents, could limit orders to a maximum of two 60-ounce bottles and two 40-ounce bottles of spirits, 48 cans of beer

and four litres of wine every two weeks. The committee was disbanded when liquor restrictions were lifted.

Nunavut’s Liquor Act allows the Department of Finance, which oversees liquor permits, to deny a permit to individuals on a prohibited list, which is generated through the courts. However, it is very rarely used, and there is currently no one on that list.

Several other Kugluktuk residents declined to speak on the record about changes they’ve seen in the community over the past several months.

“I’m hoping it levels out,” Nivingalok said of the increase in alcohol-related criminal complaints.

Fact file
Alcohol-related complaints to the Kugluktuk RCMP
2019 (compared to same month in 2018)
January – 60 files (up 37)
February – 48 files (up 19)
March – 108 files (up 54)
April – 57 files (up 20)
May – 72 files (up 13)
[the lifting of liquor restrictions took effect on Dec. 14]
Source: RCMP

Alcohol ordered into Kugluktuk (in litres)
September 2018 – 1,181
October – 1,397
November – 1,446
December – 1,640
January 2019 – 1,805
February – 1,840
March – 2,194
*not including the personal exemption allowing residents to bring up to three litres of spirits, nine litres of wine or 26 litres of beer into the community with them on flights.
Source: Department of Finance


Removal of alcohol restrictions brings trouble to Kugluktuk

Ford government’s proposed alcohol policies will increase harms, researchers say

TORONTO – A group of researchers is sounding the alarm over the Ontario government’s planned changes to alcohol policy, saying the relaxed rules will lead to more consumption that can bring an increase in crime, hospitalizations and even death.

The warning comes in a report from Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and the University of Victoria’s Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research.


Titled “Canadian Alcohol Policy Evaluation,” the report finds that until the new rules were announced, Ontario had some of the most effective alcohol policies in the country when it came to reducing harm.

However, researchers say the changes recently announced by the Progressive Conservative government – including wider availability, increased hours of sale and legalizing tailgate parties – will lead to increased harms.


Ford government’s proposed alcohol policies will increase harms, researchers say

Ontario has an alcohol crisis – and the government is making it worse

Daniel Myran is a family physician based in Ottawa who is completing a residency in Public Health and Preventive Medicine at the University of Ottawa, and recently completed a Master’s of Public Health at Harvard with a research focus on the impact of alcohol-control policies in Canada.

If you had to find a topic that Kathleen Wynne and Doug Ford would agree upon, increasing access to cheap alcohol probably wouldn’t be your first guess. Yet dismantling decades-old policies used to protect Ontarians from alcohol harms – everything from alcohol-related car crashes to liver disease – seems to be one of the few bipartisan issues left in Ontario.

In 2015, the Wynne government relaxed alcohol sales regulations by allowinggrocery stores in Ontario to begin selling beer, wine and cider, a policy that has resulted in a 25 per cent increase in the number of stores where alcohol can be purchased. And what the Liberals started on this file, the Ford government seems determined to finish: it committed to allowing alcohol sales in corner stores, introduced “buck-a-beer” last September to decrease the minimum price of beer by 25 per cent, cancelled a planned 4-per-cent increase in beer prices in October, and increased the weekly legal limit on the hours of alcohol sales from stores like the LCBO and Beer Store by 8 per cent in December. “It is time to acknowledge that Ontario is mature enough for this change and ready to join other jurisdictions in making life a little more convenient,” Mr. Ford said on the campaign trail.

His government’s recent budget has delivered on that promise and more. The near future holds a large expansion of the number and type of alcohol stores across Ontario with a focus on privatization. The government will also allow drinking alcohol in parks, tailgating at sporting events, earlier opening hours for bars, and relaxing alcohol-advertising rules – all described as “early wins for the people.”

Maybe Premier Ford is right. Perhaps as a society we can handle a bit more choice in a responsible manner. These are popular decisions too, of course: who can argue against increased consumer choice and cheaper … well, anything? And at first glance, it can be hard to imagine why having your nearest grocery store or corner store sell beer would result in harms from alcohol.

But a large body of Canadian and international evidence has shown that one of the best ways to prevent alcohol harms is to set limits on how cheaply and widely it can be sold. That also includes research that my colleagues and I recently conducted on the Ontario Liberal government’s decision to allow beer and wine sales in grocery stores. When we compared the two years before and two years after the policy took effect, we found a 17.8 per cent increase in the number of emergency-room visits due to alcohol, compared to the 6.2 per cent growth of all types of ER visits. Areas of the province that had grocery stores selling alcohol had a 6 per cent greater increase in the rate of ER visits due to alcohol than areas that did not. And this was not a simple correlation; we accounted for differences in age, sex, income, and the possibility that grocery stores that started selling alcohol were located in areas that had more ER visits due to alcohol at baseline.

Ontarians’ relationship with alcohol is already spinning out of control. The most recent available data, from 2014, estimates that alcohol was directly responsible for 5,147 deaths in Ontario, or just over 5 per cent of all deaths that year. In the same year there were 32,897 hospitalizations due to alcohol across Ontario – representing a big obstacle to ending hallway medicine, as the government has promised to do. Alcohol use has a high cost: Researchers estimate that in 2014 Ontario spent $5.34 billion, or $391 per person, covering the health, lost productivity, and legal costs from alcohol – and that’s a lot more than the $2.12 billion that the Ontario government received from the LCBO in 2018.

Nearly every Canadian knows someone who suffers or has suffered from an alcohol-use disorder. Now imagine that person having to struggle with the decision of whether or not to buy alcohol every time they go shopping or take a walk though their neighbourhood. Add on everyone making more impulsive decisions to buy alcohol, or making it easier to grab a last-minute six-pack or bottle of wine, and it starts making sense that when alcohol is more available, people will drink more – and potentially end up in the ER.

So yes, we can likely expect consequences from Premier Ford’s changes around Ontario’s alcohol policy, which essentially encourage higher-volume and heavier drinking. This pattern of change unfortunately predates the current government. At this point we can only hope that sometime in the near future, we sober up, reverse course and double-down on measures that we know reduce alcohol harms. Critics will be all too eager to paint such policies as paternalistic – the last gasps of a nanny state – but maybe adopting healthy and responsible public policy, rather than increasing ease of access to alcohol, would actually be the truest sign of a mature Ontario.



Ban on alcohol cuts violent crime in half in Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation

An alcohol ban instituted in Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation after 18-year-old Marcus Spence was beaten to death Feb. 20 has resulted in a 50 per cent drop in violent crime in the community, the RCMP told the CBC.

Spence had just found out that he was going to be a father a few weeks before he was killed, according to his mother Kelly Spence. 
Four men from Nelson House – Waylon Alfred McKay, Patrick Linklater, Gerald Lee Spence and Russell Sinclair – were arrested in February and early March in connection with the killing

Father of UC Irvine freshman believes hazing ritual caused son’s death


The father of a UC Irvine freshman found unresponsive following a fraternity party earlier this year believes his son’s death was the result of a hazing ritual.

Noah Domingo died at an off-campus residence around 3:30 a.m. on Jan. 12 following a fraternity party the night before. Authorities did not receive a 911 for another six hours and responded to the home around 9:30 a.m.

A witness told the operator the 18-year-old from La Crescenta “just drank too much” but his father, Dale Domingo, contends his son died during a Sigma Alpha Epsilon “big brother night” ritual.

“We have discovered the horrifying truth about fraternity hazing,” he told CBS News. “Noah was compelled to guzzle a so-called ‘family drink’ to become part of his big brother’s family. It is why fraternities openly refer to this type of ritual as being one of the deadly nights.”

The Orange County Sheriff’s Department Coroner division on Monday announced Noah died of alcohol poisoning with a blood-alcohol level of 0.331 — which is more than four times the legal limit. His cause of death was ruled “accidental acute ethanol intoxication.”

“We remain shocked and saddened by Noah’s tragic death, and we offer our deepest sympathies to the Domingo family for their loss,” the university said in a statement. “His death brings an urgent focus on alcohol and substance abuse, from the cultural pressures that encourage unhealthy behavior to policies designed to mitigate danger.”

The national council of Sigma Alpha Epsilon voted to suspend its UCI chapter in wake of Noah’s death. On Feb. 21, they voted to shut it down indefinitely.

Authorities in Irvine are still investigating the student’s death and have not confirmed whether hazing was a factor.

Alcohol kills more people than all other drugs combined in Oregon

Paul Lewis, MD, the health officer for Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties, says in Oregon alcohol kills far more people than all other drugs combined.

Oregon’s rate of alcohol-related deaths is nearly twice as high as the national average. And in that category, the state ranks fifth worst in the country according to new data from the Trust for America’s Health. Washington ranks No. 10.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says excessive alcohol use leads to approximately 88,000 deaths per year in the U.S. Nationwide there were more than 70,000 drug overdose deaths in 2017.

Lewis also says where you live can determine what causes your death.

“For example, we talk about drinking and smoking and exercise and food. If you live in a place with no grocery stores, your diet may not be very good,” he told a KATU reporter Friday, saying many areas like that exist in Northeast and Southeast Portland. “Also, if you live in a neighborhood without sidewalks or without street lights, you might not get much exercise.”

The Portland area has an alcohol-friendly culture with many people enjoying local beer and wine.

But Lewis says, watch out.

“It’s really unsafe drinking, that’s the problem. We don’t think there’s any safe smoking but drinking can be done in moderation,” he explained. “Binge drinking is five drinks for a male and four for a female at a given setting. Oregon is above the national average on all of those things.”

Statewide, Lewis pointed out that the number of alcohol-related deaths per 100,000 people has climbed dramatically in Oregon from 31 in 2001 to 43 in 2015. By comparison, in 2015 there were about 12 overdose deaths from all drugs per 100,000 people across the state.

“Deaths from opioids are dramatic. Someone’s alive one minute, stops breathing and is dead a few minutes later,” Lewis said. “Deaths from things like alcohol are a lot more subtle. They take years to develop and the cause isn’t often attributed to alcohol. It’s attributed to a liver disease or bleeding or stroke. But the underlying cause is overuse of alcohol.”

Authorities say an average of 124 people commit suicide each year in Multnomah County. Fewer than half those who carry out suicide have a known mental health condition, according to county health officials, but about three-in-four people who kill themselves have had trouble with drugs or alcohol.

“And a large number of traffic-related injuries and deaths have substances related as do homicides,” Lewis explained.

Lewis, who recently reported this data to Multnomah County commissioners, said death rates in multiple categories are higher among people of color than among white people.

“Even after we’d done all the analysis, we’re left with the uncomfortable conclusion that racism, discrimination of all kinds and inequality lead to stress and despair that build up over time and lead to increased death rates,” Lewis said.

Multnomah County is considering restricting the sale of tobacco and banning the sale of flavored tobacco.

County Chair Deborah Kafoury asked the public health division to come up with new regulations after hearing a briefing from Lewis and other health officials on preventable deaths. One of the possible regulations would restrict the sale of tobacco near schools, but it’s unclear at this point by how much.

Some commissioners are also targeting flavored tobacco, calling it an open invitation to kids.



Moderate alcohol consumption linked with high blood pressure

A study of more than 17,000 U.S. adults shows that moderate alcohol consumption–seven to 13 drinks per week–substantially raises one’s risk of high blood pressure, or hypertension, according to research being presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 68th Annual Scientific Session.

The findings contrast with some previous studies that have associated moderate drinking with a lower risk of some forms of heart disease. Most previous studies, however, have not assessed high blood pressure among moderate drinkers. Since hypertension is a leading risk factor for heart attack and stroke, the new study calls into question the notion that moderate alcohol consumption benefits heart health.

“I think this will be a turning point for clinical practice, as well as for future research, education and public health policy regarding alcohol consumption,” said Amer Aladin, MD, a cardiology fellow at Wake Forest Baptist Health and the study’s lead author. “It’s the first study showing that both heavy and moderate alcohol consumption can increase hypertension.”

Alcohol’s impact on blood pressure could stem from a variety of factors, according to researchers. Because alcohol increases appetite and is, itself, very energy-dense, drinking often leads to greater caloric intake overall. Alcohol’s activities in the brain and liver could also contribute to spikes in blood pressure.

Data for the research came from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Study (NHANES), a large, decades-long study led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Specifically, the researchers analyzed data from 17,059 U.S. adults who enrolled in the NHANES study between 1988 and 1994, the NHANES phase with data that is considered most complete and representative of the U.S. population.

Participants reported their drinking behavior on several questionnaires administered by mail and in person. Their blood pressure was recorded by trained personnel during visits in participants’ homes and at a mobile examination center.

The researchers split participants into three groups: those who never drank alcohol, those who had seven to 13 drinks per week (moderate drinkers) and those who had 14 or more drinks per week (heavy drinkers). They assessed hypertension according to the 2017 ACC/AHA high blood pressure guideline, which defined Stage 1 hypertension as having systolic blood pressure between 130-139 or diastolic pressure between 80-89, and Stage 2 hypertension as having systolic pressure above 140 or diastolic pressure above 90.

Compared with those who never drank, moderate drinkers were 53 percent more likely to have stage 1 hypertension and twice as likely to have stage 2 hypertension. The pattern among heavy drinkers was even more pronounced; relative to those who never drank, heavy drinkers were 69 percent more likely to have stage 1 hypertension and 2.4 times as likely to have stage 2 hypertension. Overall, the average blood pressure was about 109/67 mm Hg among never-drinkers, 128/79 mm Hg among moderate drinkers and 153/82 mm Hg among heavy drinkers.

In their analysis, researchers adjusted for age, sex, race, income and cardiovascular risk to separate the effects from alcohol consumption from other factors with known links to hypertension.

Aladin said the study’s large sample size likely helps explain why the findings appear to contrast with previous studies in this area. Studies involving fewer participants or only one medical center would not have the same statistical power as one using a large, national data set such as NHANES.

“This study is not only large but diverse in terms of race and gender,” Aladin said. “The results are very informative for future research and practice. If you are drinking a moderate or large amount of alcohol, ask your provider to check your blood pressure at each visit and help you cut down your drinking and eventually quit.”

Researchers didn’t find any significant difference in blood pressure and alcohol intake by gender or ethnic/racial background. They plan to further analyze the data for insights on how demographic factors might influence the relationship between alcohol consumption and high blood pressure.



The Alcohol Crisis In America Has Been Overshadowed By Opioids, But Can No Longer Be Ignored

When talking about drug abuse and drug-related death in the U.S., most conversations and statistics do not include alcohol. Although alcohol is classified as a depressant, the amount consumed and type of alcohol determine the outcome and thus, most individuals think of it as separate from other drugs. But that doesn’t change the impact that alcohol has on the body, the mind, or the shocking statistics of abuse and death that are attributed to alcohol use and abuse.

In fact, many people use alcohol as either a substitute or a compliment to other kinds of drugs

In fact, alcohol is the 3rd leading preventable cause of death in the United States,  with an estimated 88,000 people (approximately 62,000 men and 26,000 women) dying from alcohol-related causes every year. Further, according to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 6.2% of adults over the age of 18 (more then 15 million) and 2.5% of 12-17 year olds (more than 600,00) have an alcohol use disorder (AUD).

However, new graphics created by the American Addiction Centers’ River Oaks Treatment facility show just how significant – and different – state level use and abuse of alcohol and other drugs can be. Using CDC data from 2013-2017, the facility looked at per capita death rates from drugs and alcohol, tracking the percentage change from both causes for each year as well as the overall death rate.



Alcohol policies fizzle for Canadian governments as harms grow: reports

VICTORIA — Two new studies say the federal and provincial governments must do more to reduce alcohol consumption after determining damages from drinking have surpassed tobacco use.

As part of the Canadian Alcohol Policy Evaluation project, researchers graded the federal, provincial and territorial governments on policy efforts to reduce alcohol-related harms.

Tim Stockwell, director with the University of Victoria’s Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research, said the federal government earned a 38 per cent grade while the provinces and territories collectively achieved 44 per cent.

Ontario scored the highest grade with a C, although Stockwell said it has “gone backwards” after Premier Doug Ford moved to lower the price of alcohol with his “buck-a-beer” legislation.

“We’re used to people being disinterested in these policies but what’s unusual with Ontario is that they’re deliberately, and publicly, and with glee, and relish going in an opposite direction that will create more problems,” he said.

“I guess that’s populism for you, isn’t it.”

About 80 per cent of Canadians drink, and most enjoy a drink or two, so making alcohol cheaper is a nice, quick, popular thing to do, he said.

But people forget there’s a bill at the end of making alcohol cheap and readily available, Stockwell said, noting that some of the tragic consequences include death, economic costs, and more people with cancers and liver diseases.

“But that happens quietly in the background and claiming success in those areas doesn’t get you elected as well it does giving people cheap beer,” he said.

Norman Geisbrecht, a senior scientist at the Toronto-based Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, said while the impact of alcohol is more noticeable in accidents, behaviour and certain chronic diseases, there may also be an indirect impact on people’s mental health.

Heavy drinking practices will have an impact on the workforce, absenteeism and affect performance at work because people may come in when they are hung over or semi-intoxicated, Geisbrecht said.

“If you make alcohol more widely available it becomes a challenge with regard to people who are maybe addicted or maybe in recovery,” he said.

“Or it becomes more difficult for them to retain their abstinence or control their drinking if alcohol is more widely available or if its cheaper and if found at many different outlets.”

Stockwell said researchers looked at 11 different types of alcohol policy including availability, pricing and taxation, and health and safety messaging and then developed best practices based on extensive international research.

“There’s excellent practices in many areas and by most jurisdictions but they are very, very thinly spread,” he said.

Manitoba has a “wonderful” minimum pricing strategy, he said, adding that British Columbia and some other provinces have “fantastic” laws to deter impaired driving.

“And they’re being very effective but across the whole board every province falls down significantly in some areas even though they perform quite well in others.”

Provinces that scored the lowest were New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nunavut and the Yukon.

Recommendations from the researchers include introducing a comprehensive minimum price of $1.75 per standard drink for liquor store sales and $3.50 per standard drink for bars and restaurants, and independent monitoring of alcohol promotions, including both social and other media.

Tobacco comes with graphic warning images of “people dying in hospital beds,” black teeth and diseased lungs, while there’s a “whole slew of warning messages” about pregnancy, schizophrenia and impaired driving on cannabis packages, Stockwell said.

“With alcohol we get lovely images of rolling vineyards or images of people looking intoxicated, strange names of drinks that encourage intoxication — so the opposite of health information,” he said. “There’s an absence of health information.”

While a lot of people would not be opposed to a few tough restrictions on these policies, most politicians hesitate to implement them, he said.

“For the same reason that Doug Ford was able to get elected promising a buck-a-beer. Because we do like our alcohol and we do tend to frown on people who point out that there are problems.”



Will your next flight to Spain be dry? Country calls for complete airline alcohol BAN

Spanish authorities are calling for a blanket booze ban across all airlines and at airports, to crackdown on drunken holidaymakers. Tourism leaders have said “courage and ambition” is needed to tackle the alcohol problem which they say is the cause of many deaths in the country. They hope to change a mindset which links getting drunk with sun-soaked holidays in what they brand “drunken tourism”. Officials called a meeting in Majorca, which they believe to be one of the hotspots for trouble.


During the event, it was suggested the measures could begin at the airport, with travellers not being permitted to walk through the duty free booze aisles.

Chief Inspector of the National Police José María Manso later told the Spanish press: “Alcohol should be banned on flights and at airports, the only thing you see is selling and selling more alcohol at Palma airport, it’s a shopping centre where alcohol and more alcohol are sold.”


One representative of a British airport said: “The key is prevention, preventing these passengers from getting on the plane” and even drinking in establishments where alcohol is sold.”

A police chief them emphasised the call on Europe to implement the ban.


He said: “We have already banned smoking.


“People can’t light up for three hours when flying from the UK to Spain so why do they have to drink? What are we waiting for?”

It remains to be seen whether the measures will be implemented.

They were debated under Chatham House rules, which meant representatives could make their case without having to reveal their identity.

The proposals come shortly after budget flight operator Ryanair called for a drinking ban at airports.

Last year, it reiterated the need for airports to end early morning boozing for passengers.


Airlines have suffered from a number of delays from intoxicated passengers who have to be removed from the flight.

Previously, a drunk man dressed as Tinkerbell was removed from a Ryanair flight after being abusive to cabin crew while under the influence.

The budget airline is now requesting that airports do not sell alcohol before 10am in the terminals.

Meanwhile, it has also suggested a two-drink policy per passenger, which could be regulated by scanning boarding passes.

Airports are currently exempt from the Licensing Act which restricts the time people can be served alcohol.

Ryanair said in a statement: “Ryanair’s number one priority is the safety of our customers, crew and aircraft and we have a zero-tolerance policy towards alcohol and disruptive behaviour.”




Higher autism prevalence in children prenatally exposed to alcohol: pilot study

A new pilot study found that the prevalence of autism among children prenatally exposed to alcohol was significantly higher than the prevalence in the overall Canadian population.

The study, which will be presented at the Canadian Paediatric Society’s annual conference in P.E.I. this week, examined the case reports of 300 Ontario children aged three to 16 who were exposed to alcohol in the womb.

Researchers reviewed the case reports to determine the prevalence of autism, number of children diagnosed with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), and other demographic data.


FASDs are a group of conditions that can present in children whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy, and are among the leading causes of cognitive and developmental disability among Canadian children. FASD symptoms can range from mild to severe, and may include physical, mental, behavioural, and learning disabilities.

The researchers found that 4.7 per cent (or 14) of the 300 children had been diagnosed with autism. By comparison, the prevalence of autism among the general Canadian population is 1.1 per cent.

The study also found the following:

  • Of the 14 children who were diagnosed with autism, half were boys and half were girls;
  • Two additional children had autistic features, but did not meet the criteria for a formal diagnosis;
  • Of these 16 children, all were diagnosed with FASD.

Dr. Brenda Stade, co-author of the study and head of St. Michael’s Hospital Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Clinic, told CTVNews.ca that researchers aren’t sure what’s behind the association between prenatal alcohol exposure and autism.

“Whether alcohol is actually causing autism symptoms, we don’t know,” she said. “We can only say that there’s a correlation, but we don’t know exactly why.”

Stade noted that there may be some overlap between FASD symptoms and the symptoms associated with autism. However, she said, children diagnosed with autism in the study presented with symptoms of both disorders.

She recommends that children who are being screened for FASD should also be screened for autism to ensure they’re getting every available intervention.

“We don’t want to miss those kids who could benefit from specific interventions developed for autism,” she said.



It’s time to address the elephant in the room

New research showing that alcohol is involved in nearly half of all family violence cases in Victoria is shocking. It is also a loud wakeup call that requires serious and swift changes to Victoria’s 20 year old liquor licensing laws.

Despite overwhelming efforts by national and local organisations to stamp out this unacceptable behaviour, family violence is on the rise in our state. You might be asking yourself, how can this be the case? Well, it is – and the government has the power to make changes.

With alcohol being involved in 44.2 per cent of family violence cases, there is little doubt where the solution lies.

There is an indisputable link between the number of bottle shops in a neighbourhood and domestic violence. A 10-year-long Victorian study found that when the number of bottle shops increased by 10 per cent there was a 3.3 percent increase in domestic violence. Alcohol is also a significant contributor to child protection cases across Australia, with 10,000 children in the child protection sector because of the alcohol use of a carer.

Over the past 15 years the number of liquor outlets in Victoria has increased about 50 per cent – giving our state first place in the alcohol availability stakes.

The good news is that everyone is talking about domestic violence and the Victorian Government is taking action, but the problem is the role of alcohol in this violence hasn’t been addressed.

Victoria’s Royal Commission into Family Violence made 227 recommendations – all of which the Government has committed to take on, including a review of the state’s Liquor Act. The review of the Liquor Act has so far gone under the radar, but it is happening right now and the window of opportunity for reform is fast closing.

Under the current system, if someone wants to open a new alcohol outlet in an area which is already well-served by many other bottle shops, the application process does not take seriously community issues and concerns.

We saw a perfect example of this recently in the City of Casey which is a well-known “family violence hotspot”. Dan Murphy’s was given the green light to open a ‘big box’ outlet in the area despite there already being an existing 25 bottle shops in a 5 kilometre radius. Police and local council vehemently opposed the application based on family violence concerns.  However, their protest fell on deaf ears.

Priority is given by the Act to business interests over protecting the safety of vulnerable families and communities.

This clearly demonstrates the need for an overhaul of liquor licensing approvals.

The Victorian Government has gone on record saying it wants to reduce red-tape within the Liquor Act, which likely means a reduction in regulation. Yet, Victoria has already deregulated the liquor industry, leaving the community with little control over the number of bottle shops in its backyard. And we wonder why family violence is on the rise?

And the irony is, the Liquor Act’s first aim is to minimise harm arising from the misuse of alcohol.

If we are serious about preventing family violence we have to get serious about the role of alcohol. The longer we take to address the elephant in the room, the longer this issue will continue to play out and destroy people’s lives.

We need to change the way that we review and approve liquor licenses to properly consider the views of the community.

We need to be able to say that an area has far too many liquor licenses and that no more should be given.

We need to get serious about regulating reckless promotions that allow people to buy car loads of alcohol at bargain basement prices, without consideration for the risk to the community.

It’s imperative the Victorian Government conduct its Liquor Act review with family violence at the forefront. They have the power to make the change.

Regulating the use of alcohol is critical to reducing harm. Reducing red tape must not be at the expense of family safety, nor expose more Victorians to the horror of police stretching blue tape across the family home.



New study shows advertizing for alcohol is prevalent in UK television

A new study in the Journal of Public Health indicates that advertising for alcohol is common in British television, and may be a potential driver of alcohol use in young people.

It is estimated that the rate of alcohol consumption in those over 15 in the UK is the eighth highest in Europe. Alcohol use was responsible for at least 6813 deaths in the country in 2015, and cost the NHS £3.5 billion in 2013-14.

There is strong evidence that exposure to advertising or other alcohol imagery in the media increases subsequent use in adolescents. An estimated 28 million British households have at least one television and in 2015 the average viewing was 3 hours and 47 minutes a day. Previous studies have found that alcohol imagery appeared frequently in studies of UK television; some 40 per cent of programs contained alcohol content.

In 2015, researchers quantified the content of all programs and advertisements broadcast on the five, free access, national UK channels. The researchers here explored the differences in content between channels and genres, and compared these with the findings of a similar study in 2010.

A total of 611 programs and 1140 commercials were recorded during the peak viewing hours, between 6 and 10 pm, from Monday to Sunday in three separate weeks. Alcohol imagery occurred most frequently in the news, current affairs programs, and soap operas.

This study demonstrates that alcohol imagery is extremely common on UK television, occurring in over 50% of all programs broadcast and almost 50% of all advertising periods between programs. The majority of alcohol content occurred before 9 pm. Branding occurred in 18% of programs and 11% of advertisement periods and involved 122 brands, though three brands (Heineken, Corona, and Fosters) accounted for almost half of all brand appearances.

Alcohol content shown on TV has an effect on the uptake of alcohol use in young people. This analysis shows that television remains a major source of alcohol exposure to young people in the UK and is likely to continue to be a contributor to alcohol uptake by young people, with levels of content slightly higher than the researchers observed in the earlier analysis of program content from 2010.

“There is strong evidence that viewing alcohol advertising or imagery has an uptake on subsequent alcohol use in young people,” said Alexander Barker, research fellow at the Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies. “Our study shows that alcohol imagery, including branding, is regularly broadcast on prime-time TV, when children and adolescents are likely to be watching. Tighter scheduling rules from the Advertising Standards Agency and Ofcom (broadcast regulator), such as restricting alcohol advertisements and alcohol imagery in programs, to after the 9 p.m. watershed, could prevent children and adolescents being exposed to this content.”



Colgate University men’s sports team suspended for hazing, ‘high-risk alcohol consumption’

HAMILTON, NY – Colgate University has suspended its men’s swimming and diving team for the fall season due to “hazing and high-risk alcohol consumption,” officials announced.

The team is suspended from all all fall competition and its winter training trip, according to a statement by the university.

After an investigation by the university’s athletics department and dean’s office, the university found the team engaged in hazing that included high-risk alcohol consumption.

Hazing can include humiliating or dangerous initiation rituals imposed on college students who want to be fraternity or sorority members.


“We regret the need to make this decision but also want to communicate clearly and unequivocally that hazing and high-risk drinking have no place in Colgate’s Division I athletics program or at Colgate University,” said Colgate Vice President and Director of Athletics Nicki Moore.

Hazing is prohibited by Colgate University policy and state law.

Members of the team also must undergo mandatory education regarding hazing.

In September 2017, Colgate’s men’s rowing team also was suspended for a season due to hazing.

In Pennsylvania, an anti-hazing bill named for 19-year-old Penn State student Timothy Piazza is expected to be signed today, according to Fox 2 TV. . Piazza died last year in a fraternity ritual that involved excessive drinking.

Six men face hazing charges in Piazza’s death.


Drunk female passenger who swore and threatened to punch a stewardess forced Ryanair flight to Ibiza to turn around and fly back to Manchester

A boozed-up plane passenger forced a flight to turn back to Manchester after she threatened to punch a member of the cabin crew.

Julie Morris was on board a Ryanair flight from Manchester Airport to Ibiza last month when she began volleying expletives through the cabin.

The 54-year-old was sitting opposite a family with a baby so a stewardess went to speak to her to ask her to calm down


Staff had suspected she was drinking alcohol that she had purchased on board and they asked her about it.

Manchester Magistrates Court was told she launched a ‘volley of expletives’ telling the member of cabin crew ‘f**k off you f*****g b***h’.

She was then also heard to say ‘I will punch her.’

Morris was moved to another row but continued to be disruptive. The captain of the Ryanair flight FR1263 alerted the authorities and then made the decision to turn back to ensure the safety of the passengers.



Drunk thug attacked boy as he waited to be collected after disco in Letterkenny, Donegal

A drunk thug viciously attacked a 14-year-old boy and asked him if he wanted to die as he waited to be collected from a disco by his mother.

Lee Byrne, 28, targeted the boy, who was waiting outside a takeaway for his lift in Letterkenny, Donegal.

At 12.20am on July 14 last, Byrne confronted the lad and asked if he wanted to die before punching him.

The terrified child ran away and hid inside the takeaway.

His mother arrived and Byrne was pointed out to her but he fled, only to be arrested by Gardai who arrived on the scene. Cops arrested Byrne, who was drunk and they later found a cannabis grinder on him.



Death of U of M student from South Dakota ruled alcohol-related

ST. PAUL—The death of a 20-year-old University of Minnesota student in St. Paul last month was alcohol-related, the Ramsey County medical examiner’s office said Thursday, Oct. 11.

Dylan Fulton had been drinking, vomited when he was passed out and choked to death, said Lori Hedican, chief investigator at the medical examiner’s office. He died at his fraternity house on Sept. 12.

Fulton grew up on his family farm south of St. Lawrence, S.D. He was pursuing a degree in animal science with a beef production emphasis.

The national organization of Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity suspended the University of Minnesota’s chapter the next day, pending an investigation, said Becky Haley, executive assistant of the agriculture fraternity.

Police were called to the fraternity house on Carter Avenue near the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus after Fulton’s fraternity brothers found him unresponsive.

Fulton’s official cause of death was probable asphyxia and possible positional asphyxia with aspiration; other significant causes were found to be ethanol intoxication, said Hedican of the death certificate. The certificate was filed Tuesday after toxicology results came back. Information about Fulton’s blood-alcohol level was not available.

“This could have been anyone’s son/brother/grandson/nephew/cousin…..GOOD KID,” Fulton’s family said in a statement after his death.

Fulton had a 4.0 GPA throughout his educational career, which he maintained at the University of Minnesota and made the dean’s list, his family said. He received a full scholarship to attend the U, where he was a sophomore.

After Fulton died, University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler directed the Office for Student Affairs to help the leaders of Greek chapters “conduct a thoughtful and exhaustive safety review.” That work is underway and is being student led, said Steve Henneberry, director of communications for the Office for Student Affairs.

The university is awaiting the results of the St. Paul police investigation to determine their next steps, which could be an investigation of its own, Henneberry said.