Official Government Health Report Calls Alcohol a “Mind-Altering Drug”

Published On February 11, 2016 | By HN Staff | Life
Canadians spent almost 20 billion on alcohol between April 2013 and March 2014.

Canadians spent over $20 billion on alcohol between April 2013 and March 2014 alone.

 Ali Amad

At least 4.4 million Canadians are at risk for chronic health effects due to drinking alcohol, according this annual report released by Canada’s top public health officer.

The report concentrates on different public health concerns for Canadians and focused on alcohol consumption this year.

Dr. Gregory Taylor, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer wrote in the report that alcohol is handled like a food but should be treated as a mind-altering drug.

Alcohol-related disorders were the top cause of hospitalizations in Canada in 2011 among psychoactive drugs, and an estimated 10,700 cancer diagnoses in Canada were related to alcohol consumption.

The report cites the World Health Organization’s definition of a mind-altering drug: containing psychoactive chemicals that act on the brain to change thinking, mood, consciousness and behaviour and whose use can sometimes lead to dependence and abuse.

According to the report, alcohol falls clearly within that definition, despite the fact that it is identified as a food under the Canadian Food and Drugs Act.

Alcohol-related disorders were the top cause of hospitalizations in Canada in 2011 among psychoactive drugs, and an estimated 10,700 cancer diagnoses in Canada were related to alcohol consumption.

It’s that number of diagnoses that has given the Canadian Cancer Society a great cause for concern. A recent survey conducted last month by the Canadian Cancer Society found that almost 28% of Ontarians didn’t know that consuming alcohol can increase the risk of cancer.

“When we asked people in the survey what they thought the leading causes of cancer were, they talked about microwave ovens, pollution and mobile phones as more likely to cause cancer than alcohol,” said Susan Flynn, Senior Manager, Cancer Prevention at the Canadian Cancer Society.

The survey also found that 60% of women and 41% of men exceed the safe amount of alcohol consumption, according to Canadian Cancer Society guidelines.

Flynn said that the problem is that the information to increase awareness of the link between alcohol and cancer just isn’t out there. Potential solutions included labeling alcohol, similar to cigarettes, to inform Canadians of the risks at point of purchase in establishments like the Beer Store and the LCBO.

“The LCBO is a government organization and so they do have a social responsibility as it relates to safe alcohol use,” said Flynn, who strongly supports any policy that would increase awareness of the alcohol-cancer connection.

“At the Canadian Cancer Society, we would say that there’s no safe levels of alcohol when it comes to cancer,” says Flynn.

Another solution is increasing awareness through initiatives such as the recently launched Dry Feb, an online third party fundraiser.

Dry Feb challenges people to go booze free for the month of February, and to collect donations in support of the Canadian Cancer Society.

“Through this initiative, we’re hoping to promote the idea that we can modify alcohol consumption to reduce cancer risk,” said Flynn, adding that shifting cultural norms regarding social drinking is a necessary, but potentially slow, first step.

Almost 700 people have signed up for Dry Feb in the first five days of the month and anyone is still welcome to join.

“It’s definitely been very successful for us. People are definitely taking note and paying attention to this information and accepting the challenge,” said Flynn.

You can find information about Dry Feb at www.dryfeb.ca, and more on the links between alcohol and cancer at www.cancer.ca.

 

Canadians and Alcohol

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *