Drinking rate skewed, but still worth a look

“There were 41 alcohol-related deaths in the Lake Cowichan area in 2013.”

“There were 41 alcohol-related deaths in the Lake Cowichan area in 2013.”

This was an alarming number Dr. Paul Hasselback, medical health officer for central Vancouver Island, cited in his report to Valley area local governments.

That’s a huge number, as is the average intake per person of approximately 17 litres of “absolute alcohol” per year, in the Lake Cowichan area.

One litre of absolute alcohol is the equivalent of about 58 standard drinks.

That’s the highest drinking rate on the Island.

That’s a lot of booze.

Not the best way to stand out as a community.

But when you investigate a little deeper things look a little less dire for the area.

The calculations of volume of alcohol consumed are made using sales from the local liquor store to those of drinking age.

This clarifies things a little.

With its huge influx of tourists, campers and tubers in the summer, many of whom buy alcohol, sometimes in great quantity for a bit of a holiday binge, it’s easy to see how the numbers get skewed quickly to where it looks like its a community of boozers.

The numbers are only likely to look even worse after this summer when the Sunfest crowd sweeps in and out, ready to enjoy a cold one on a hot day.

Which isn’t to say that the numbers should just be ignored, dismissed as the result of people from out of town tying one on when they visit.

There’s nothing wrong with having a drink or two with friends after work, or on a birthday or other occasion.

Or having a glass of wine while one relaxes at home with a good book.

But there are those for whom alcohol is a problem.

Many of these folks can’t stop themselves at just one drink. One drink leads inevitably to totally plastered.

They make bad decisions when drunk, like getting into their vehicles, or getting into fights.

Alcohol abuse can be just as serious as abusing illegal drugs.

It can have a detrimental effect on health and wellbeing, and is actually a depressant, so not a good pick-me-up for those who might be feeling low to start with. If the abuse becomes serious enough people can find themselves out of work, and even estranged from family and friends.

Binge drinking isn’t any healthier.

So while outside factors explain at least in part the very high alcohol numbers for the community, that doesn’t mean they can be totally ignored.