Ottawa, it appears, needs an intervention over its drinking.
Eighty-three per cent of Ottawa adults drink; 42 per cent of all Ottawa adults are at moderate to high risk of harm as a result of drinking. Twenty-two per cent drink more than the recommended limit each week. Thirty-nine per cent of adults indulged in binge-drinking in the last year. Heavy binge-drinking went up between 2000-2001 and 2013-2014, according to Ottawa Public Health.
If that’s a bit abstract, here are some harder facts: 140 people die locally each year from alcohol-related causes; alcohol is responsible for more than 6,000 emergency room visits and 1,270 hospitalizations. And, $24.5 million in direct health care costs are attributable to drinking. “Alcohol has the highest impact, in terms of human harm and financial costs, compared with other substances,” says a report submitted last week to the Ottawa Board of Health.
So yeah, it’s time for an intervention. Ottawa Public Health certainly thinks so, and is pushing ahead on a plan to try to moderate Ottawa’s drinking culture.
Yet, just last week, Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa was boasting about making wine more easily accessible in grocery stores, and there is a direct line between availability, increased consumption and increased harm. Meanwhile, the federal government is sorting out how to get you legal access to recreational marijuana. We support individual choice in such matters. But there is, obviously, a degree of cognitive dissonance at the government level.