Some startling figures have come out in a report compiled by health professionals and police about the over-consumption of alcohol in Cape Breton.
It indicates the problem for young Nova Scotians is worse in Cape Breton than elsewhere in the province.
Fifty-three per cent of people on the Island aged 20 to 34 report heavy drinking in the past month, compared to the provincial average of 38 per cent.
Samantha Hodder, who speaks for Mental Health and Addiction Services, said the study shows people between those ages are at a high risk of causing harm due to heavy alcohol use.
“We know that heavy drinking rates — which is four or more standard drinks for a woman and five or more standard drinks for a man, which is considered heavy drinking — is just over 50 per cent in comparison with the rest of the province at 30 per cent," she said.
Those working on the study heard stories of people starting to drink as young as nine years old.
“This is a problem for us, you know, in our communities because sometimes — you look at numbers and statistics and there's no context behind them, but having those stories and those lived-experiences by people make it more real,” said Hodder.
She is careful to point out they're not asking for a prohibition — but a change in how people drink.
Police Chief Peter MacIsaac, with the Cape Breton Regional Police, said alcohol is a major problem.
“We have almost 2,000 domestic violence calls a year in this municipality — that is way too many — and if you look at a lot of them alcohol is a really dominant factor. It's a root cause of a lot of the problems here,” he said.
He said a reduction in drinking would cut down enormously on incidents that require police intervention.
Students at Cape Breton University say heavy drinking is expected.
“I kinda feel that the mindset is, you have to be drunk to have fun. So everyone is just kind of, they think that you need to drink to enjoy stuff,” said CBU student Haley Morrison.
“Outside sports there's really not a lot to do but go to the bar and drink. I mean, we used to have a bowling alley, [mini-golf] — but now we don't have anything like that to do, so really all you do to be social is go out and drink,” said CBU student Colin Hooper.
The report said the sheer amount of alcohol around all the time creates a sense that it is normal and that it has become part of the Cape Breton culture tied to music, sporting and family events.