Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Society and Alcohol

In Canada, there is no federally defined legal drinking age — each province and territory sets its own limits. The legal age for purchasing, possessing, consuming and supplying alcohol is 18 in Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec, and 19 in all other provinces and territories.Alcohol: Social drinking and the family
Canadians on aggregate, it most certainly appears, enjoy alcoholic beverages. Statistics hold that about 80 percent of Canadians engage in recreational drinking. And although alcohol is the source cause of many social ills, not the least of which is its impact on crime and on human health which itself costs dearly in policing and court costs let alone medical costs burdening the universal health care system, alcohol consumption cannot be criminally regulated, making it an offense to have and consume it.

It does face a host of regulations of a more political and social nature, however. In Canada it is not purveyed outside of provincial government agencies set up for the very purpose of regulating sale and collecting sales taxes. When GST, duties, provincial sales taxes, liquor licensing fees and profits from provincially owned liquor stores are taken into account, federal and provincial governments are enriched to the tune of $9-billion annually.

Sounds like an acceptable solution for a drug that is addictive and the source of so many problems within society, both public and private, from driving while under the influence, to the social-health decline of alcoholics. Prohibition doesn't work; does control? Drinking alcohol has been linked to over 200 diseases and injuries. Canada's expenses in dealing with health care and law enforcement amount to a $14-billion a year commitment.

Prohibition didn't work, and publicizing the deleterious social, public and personal harm that alcohol can and does cause among the general public also doesn't work. And it seems from a perspective of social, public and health advantage that the use of alcohol far outweighs the pleasure it gives people in the burden of the misery it imposes on those same people, that government compromises itself by garnering profit from that misery; it's an reality hard to argue against.

Most people, nonetheless, view alcohol as a genteel, pleasurable assist in social situations, one that represents a civilizing effect on people in social situations, one that gives additional pleasure to the practise of social gathering and of sharing meals and of complementing sports events and of aiding in celebrations, be they weddings, anniversaries, public holidays or business deals.

Where once provincially owned facilities that stock and sell alcohol did so almost covertly in a semi-embarrassed manner, such liquor outlets now take to flaunting their stock, advertising what is on offer in the most persuasively colourful language and photographs, even to publishing glossy magazines offering menu recipes and accompanying alcoholic beverages in support of the aura of liquor equalling good times.

We far prefer bypassing, if not entirely overlooking that people all too often tend to drink when they are unhappy, depressed and miserable. That the alcohol then acts as a further prod to isolation, black moods and misery in a spiral of loss of control, civility and autonomy. That many people are genetically geared toward alcoholism is an unspoken and unfortunate reality, one that infamously ruins lives. These are people said to be 'abusing' alcohol; not that the alcohol is abusing them.

And what is quite interesting is that research appears to validate that people begin drinking at a very young age, despite that it is illegal for anyone under the age of 18 in most provinces to be served liquor.

"I lost my children to Children's Aid for six years. That was my bottom. I knew if I didn't quit, I would die and then my children would not have a mother. I don't go to bars. I have been to parties where they drink and they get silly and sticky. ... It turns me off." Now 49, began drinking at 14.

"I was unhappy. ... It was an illness of the soul. I finally realized, I wasn't right. ... I went to AA with a close friend. I have never been thirsty again. When I accepted I had a problem with drinking, half the battle was done. Now being sober is part of my life." Now 70, began drinking at 14, attempted suicide.

"I fell apart, losing my memory. I was isolating. I hit my bottom, I didn't care if I lived or not. I gave up. One day, I walked out of work and ended up ... at Queensway Carleton Hospital's psychiatric ward. Nurses there, they brought me to my first AA meeting." Now 75, began drinking at 16, stopped 23 years ago.

"It was too much. I couldn't function. ... When I drink, I'm saying I'm not responsible. ... But I'm not like that anymore, I am responsible for what I do. It's a life full of excuses. ... If you are weak ... you'll end up losing days. ... You go until you can't go anymore." Began drinking at 6 or 7; drank "morning, noon and night"; stopped cocaine, heroin and alcohol 21 years ago; now 56.

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