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Is it worth the risks?

Bill FoxBy Bill Fox/Columnist

Why a buck a beer?

Statistics reveal that almost one in five of Canadians regularly binge on booze resulting in relationship difficulties and even health problems.

In 2016, Statistics Canada revealed that six million of us are binge drinking at least once a month and the largest percentage of these are young people from 18 to 34.

Jurgen Rehm, the senior director of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAHM) was quoted as saying, “Excessive drinking is one of the biggest health problems we have in this country…if you want to die prematurely, continue binge drinking”.

The rates of binge drinking in the U.S. are rising so steadily that a study in 2017 called it a public health crisis.

Experts tell us that drinking heavily can reduce your lifespan by up to 25 years.

Harmful drinking habits accounted for 77,000 hospital admissions in Canada from 2015 to 2016.

At CAMH, Rehm has suggested that he would like to see an increase in alcohol taxes, higher minimum prices and the abolition of alcohol marketing. By the time someone reaches 16, Rehm says they have already seen about 15,000 alcohol ads.

Taxes currently make up almost half the price of a beer or alcohol so it is a great source of income for Ontario.

Almost all of us, I believe, know someone who is a problem drinker, yet in the past 50 years, the alcohol industry has escaped legislation that has cracked down on other vices. Does that have to do with the tax income it provides our governments?

“It’s time to trust that consumers and local retailers are mature enough to make responsible decisions when it comes to the sale of beer and wine,” said Premier Ford.

Was Ford suggesting that his late brother was not mature enough?

Why legalize Marijuana?

Dr. Jonathan Stea, a clinical psychologist with research and clinical expertise in addiction, says, “Cannabis addiction is qualitatively different from a heroin addiction, for example, insofar as it is much less intense and not directly life-threatening.”

But it is also not trivial because it can lead to significant life-altering challenges, including problems with relationships, work, school and mental health.

Indeed, one hallmark of addiction is when substance use directly and repeatedly activates the brain-reward system, ultimately leading to significant distress and interference with daily functioning.

Rightly or wrongly, I’m assuming then that Prime Minister Trudeau and Premier Ford, both used either alcohol or marijuana as part of the election platforms to get elected.  It would appear then to have worked for them.

However, are these platforms good for the young people growing up in our society?  One study of high school aged children asked them why they drank alcohol. The overwhelming response was ‘to get drunk’.

I understand that the increase in drinking and cannabis use might be to lessen the stressors that come with our sometimes dismal economic and political climates.  We know that we belong to a culture of overworking, and that there is a rise in mental health issues and a growing social isolation especially in our cities.  Drinking and cannabis use, therefore for some, becomes a way to cope with everyday pressures.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 30 percent of young adults (between the ages of 18 and 25) used marijuana in the last year. This eye-opening statistic supports the importance of developing interventions that target people in youngadulthood, which is the prime time when marijuana is being introduced and habits are forming.

It’s too bad that many people get ‘highs’ from substances such as alcohol and cannabis, before they realize that the best ‘highs’ don’t have to be from consumption of such products.

What gives you a high?  For me highs come from nature, from helping others, from seeing my four sons being born and maturing into wonderful adults…and now to being with my grandchildren.  These are ‘highs’ you cannot buy! I’m at ‘bdfox@rogers.com’ if you care to add to my list of what gives you ‘natural highs?’