Jul 5, 2019 | Mental Health
Hi all. In previous blogs I have talked about my family. In this post I’ll be talking about them again but going further back into my childhood. In many ways I grew up like other kids of my generation did. We didn’t have seatbelts in our cars, we didn’t wear helmets when we rode our bikes and our parents didn’t really think about the impacts of second hand smoke. So, I grew up in a family where smoking and drinking was the norm. All the adults in my formative years smoked and most of them drank (some of them a lot). It’s not surprising that I tried tobacco at a young age. I was disgusted by it and I have never smoked a cigarette in my life.
I tried drinking – like I tried smoking, and I did not have the same response as I did to tobacco. As a teenager I enjoyed drinking. You see, like many of my generation alcohol was synonymous for growing up – for having fun – for friendship and good times. I remember clearly the first time I went to a bar with friends – I was 15 years old.
Now at almost 60 I am a mom, an Amma, a nurse and a hospital CEO. I think that perhaps the lesson learned by many of my generation is that ‘I turned out fine so why should we worry about the kids today’? So what if they are drinking, smoking and using illicit drugs. We all did that (or some did) and we’re successful and contributing members of our community – we’re fine – I’m fine - so they will be fine too. Right?
Let me tell you why I say that.
First, let’s talk statistics:
That’s a lot of drinking and a lot of money going to address the costs as a result.
I’m not saying we need to ban alcohol; however given that we have solid data on our societal and health impacts we have to be aware that the current alcohol policy shifts that will increase accessibility across our communities will not come without further costs – human, societal, health and dollars.
So what can you do … what can I do … what can our community do?
Let’s start with having open conversations about misuse of alcohol in our community. Let me be clear that I’m not talking about those that enjoy a glass of wine or a craft beer. I too, enjoy a glass every once in a while. What I am talking about is when you are craving alcohol. When you have lost control of the amount or the frequency of when you are drinking. When it becomes compulsive and you continue to drink despite consequences. We need to talk about the frequency that this happens.
About 17% of us self-report that we do heavy drinking – heavy drinking that eventually impacts us physically, socially and in some cases criminally. That’s almost one in five people in our community. That’s a lot of people. We need to talk about what that means to our community.
Second let’s be honest with ourselves and with each other that increased access isn’t going to help our community be healthier. We all need to be aware that when people are admitted to our hospitals as a direct result of alcohol consumption/misuse they stay longer and cost more to the system than other reasons people are admitted. We need to know and talk about the issues with alcohol as much as we talk about the issues with opioids and other substances. We can’t build a healthier community by continuing to pretend alcohol misuse isn’t an issue for a lot of people in Windsor-Essex.
And finally talk to your kids about this. Substances including alcohol are particularly detrimental to developing brains. I was startled by the numbers – remember one in six kids in grades 7 to 12 engage in harmful drinking activities. That isn’t a statistic we should be proud of and it’s one we should work to change.
I really believe we must have a community conversation about addictions in all its manifestations – including misuse of alcohol.
I hope you join that conversation.
As always your thoughts, comments and suggestions are welcome.
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