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Let’s be honest about alcohol

Like a stereotypical drunk searching in vain for a bottle that’s around here somewhere, it turns out that many Canadians have a hard time understanding exactly what happened to the liquor that they bought.

A new study for the University of Victoria’s Centre for Addictions Research, based on a national telephone survey of 13,909 people, was not able to account for two-thirds of the alcohol consumed in Canada.

The centre knows how much alcohol is being sold. The problem is that many Canadians appear to be in denial about what they are consuming.

Tim Stockwell, the centre’s director, said there are several theories on what had happened to the missing alcohol.

Survey respondents were able to provide clear answers on what they had consumed the previous day — and by using that figure to estimate national consumption, researchers could account for 80 per cent of the total sold.

When people were asked to report on their normal consumption, the numbers dropped dramatically.

It could be, as Stockwell says, that the questions being asked were not quite direct enough. It could also be that people chose not to remember, or did not remember correctly, or lied.

No matter what, this credibility gap was possibly the most disturbing aspect of the report. If we are not willing to admit how much we are drinking, that is cause for serious concern.

Alcohol is, of course, the drug of choice for many people. It has its advantages, in that it can be purchased legally and in relative safety, unlike the drugs obtained on the street. It is also more acceptable in homes and at social events.

Still, alcohol creates many problems for its users and their families, as well as those forced to suffer because of impaired drivers.

The study found that 10 per cent of Canadians in the 15-and-over age range are responsible for 53 per cent of the alcohol consumed in Canada.

Also, 54 per cent of Canadians imbibe at levels beyond the low-risk guidelines set by the centre. Women are advised to limit consumption to 10 drinks a week and no more than three in a day, while men should draw the line at 20 drinks a week and no more than four drinks in a day.

The study found that 15- to 24-year-olds do 80 per cent of their drinking in excess of the low-risk guidelines, and that 21.5 per cent of people 15 and over put themselves at risk of “acute or chronic harm” through their drinking.

The information being collected by the centre could lead to new strategies for deal with youth drinking. The centre has already advocated higher prices for alcoholic drinks, higher taxes on high-strength beverages and increased enforcement of drinking and driving laws.

Those are all sound recommendations, but ultimately, individuals will need to make some tough decisions about their alcohol intake.

And before that can happen, they will need to start being honest with themselves about how much they drink.

source: Canwest News Service

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