Binge drinking 'tying up' Alberta emergency rooms, says doc

Emergency room doctor Louis Francescutti said in the last week alone, he's seen three or four patients each shift who were admitted specifically as a result of binge drinking, and that the problem is tying up hospital services.

'It's a costly problem that's rarely mentioned by politicians,' says Dr. Louis Francescutti

Dr. Louis Francescutti says on each of his shifts this past week, he's seen three or four patients admitted to the emergency room as a result of binge drinking. (Getty Images)

Binge drinking is "a major problem" that is tying up emergency room services in Alberta, says one hospital doctor. 

Royal Alexandra Hospital doctor Louis Francescutti said in the last week alone, he's seen three or four patients each shift who were admitted specifically as a result of binge drinking, defined as five or more drinks per sitting for men and four or more drinks per sitting for women. 

Francescutti said that Edmonton hospital lacks the detoxification beds to accommodate these patients, who are far more likely to injure themselves and others. 

"That's not only costing the system an enormous amount of money, but it's tying up our emergency rooms, and it's putting these individuals at risk to themselves, if not death."

'Clever' industry advertising to blame, says doc

Francescutti said the government needs to do more to counteract the industry's "ingenious commercials" that are shaping how young people think about alcohol consumption. 

"You listen to young people, and they don't even know that bingeing is bingeing ... They don't see it as a problem," he said.

"It becomes a badge of honour to have blacked out or passed out from drinking. The more the vomit, the more you tied one on."

Francescutti said he'd like to see the government take a proactive approach in schools with education about the long-term and serious consequences of this type of alcohol abuse. 

"It's a costly problem that's rarely mentioned by politicians," he said.

"Governments get a lot of revenue from alcohol, so there's sort of a vested interest for them to play both sides of the equation," he said.

In 2013, the province launched a $400,000 ad campaign titled "Thanks, Alcohol" to highlight the poor decisions that can lead to binge drinking among youth.

"You can't advertise your way out of this, because you'd never be able to compete with the Budweiser's of the world," he said.

"What you have to do is give young people the coping skills."

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