Cross Country Checkup

With all the concern about opioids and marijuana are we forgetting the dangers of alcohol?

Governments are struggling to get a handle on legal marijuana, while fighting the growing death toll from opioids. But the substance behind the highest numbers of deaths and social dislocation is still alcohol. Are we forgetting about booze?
Experts say almost one in five Canadians who drink alcohol are considered problem drinkers. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

What about alcohol?

The holiday season is upon us, and our inboxes overfloweth with party invites — time to eat, drink and be merry.

Lots of parties means lots of alcohol ... often more than a cheerful sip of rum and eggnog. It can be a stressful time of year, especially for those with addictions.

Alcohol is the most widely used drug in Canada — the one behind the highest numbers of deaths and social dislocation. Governments may be struggling right now to get a handle on legal cannabis, while fighting the growing death toll from opioids. But are we forgetting about booze?
Host of Cross Country Checkup, Duncan McCue. (Kevin Van Paassen)

Eight of every 10 Canadians drink, and we spent $22 billion on alcohol last year. We're a nation of beer lovers, though wine and spirits keep growing in popularity. Alcohol is becoming more widely available, largely because it's a cash cow. Governments rake in billions in profits annually from our spending on alcohol.

Drinking is still seen in pop culture as good, harmless fun — a way to celebrate and relax. 

But all that imbibing comes at a cost. Nearly one in five Canadians are problem drinkers. Alcohol in excess kills. It was responsible for more hospital admissions than heart attacks last year. Studies suggest binge drinking is on the rise in Canada, particularly among young women. Alcohol fuels violence, sexual assault, and traumatic injuries. And costs the economy $14.6 billion a year in lost productivity, health costs and enforcement.

Can we Canadians handle our liquor? Should we be imposing stricter laws on alcohol consumption or better regulate those ads that promise good times come in a bottle? Would more education on the harms of alcohol help?

Our question: with all the concern about opioids and marijuana are we forgetting the dangers of alcohol?


Daniel Dolowicz, intake counsellor and business developer at Addiction Rehab Thousand Islands 

Dr. Keith Ahamad, physician at St. Paul's Hospital, Vancouver and a clinical researcher at the B.C. Centre on Substance Use

Dr. Evelyn Vingilis, director of the Population and Community Health Unit at Western University, and a professor in their Department of Family Medicine

Harold R. Johnson, lawyer and author of Firewater: How Alcohol is Killing My People (And Yours)

Tim Stockwell, director of the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research, and a professor of psychology at the University of Victoria

What we're reading

Addictions Treatment Helplines in Canada

Government of Canada: Get help with problematic substance use

Globe and Mail

National Post


Ottawa Sun

The Guardian


Huffington Post


Canadian Addiction Rehabilitation Centre

Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and Addiction

Canadian Institute for Health Information