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Drinking our problems away

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I’ve reached that stage in my life where someone offers me a drink at least once week. I wouldn’t be bothered by this as much if it wasn’t for the fact that I am underage. I joined the post-secondary community this year and am appalled by the amount of drinking that occurs. I’m not saying you shouldn’t drink, but that you shouldn’t over-drink. Too much of anything is bad for you.

Dr. Theresa Tam, head of the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), released a report stating that there has been a 26 per cent increase in alcohol-attributed deaths for women from 2011 to 2017. Men had an increase of five per cent in comparison to the 26 per cent for women. According to Tam, men still have higher rates over all, but women are rapidly catching up. This isn’t the kind of race that I want to win.

When I look at the media that surrounds me, I find television shows promoting that “strong women” will drink Scotch, I find advertisements telling me that if I drink I will have fun and be happier, and I find my own friends trying to convince me that drinking is the only way for me to solve my problems in life. Our society has peer pressured itself into alcoholism. In university I see the harm that over-drinking has done.

I talked to a few students from UFV and SFU so that I could see if it was just me being melodramatic or if the issue truly has gotten out of hand. Three out of five of the students drink regularly (two to three times a week). Four out of five of the students were underaged and all of them had at some point in their lives had at least one glass of an alcoholic beverage. When asked where the pressure came from the common response was not social media: the common response was family and/or friends.

In support of my own mini interview/survey, I found a 2017 report from the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction saying that 40 per cent of youth in grades seven to 12 have consumed alcohol at some point and that roughly half of those students still drink regularly.

The PHAC has openly provided the statistics on the harm of drinking, like using it as a coping mechanism, the short-term dehydration issues, and the long-term liver poisoning, and yet we as a society are not only encouraged to drink by companies, but also by those closest to us. The first time I was ever offered a drink, I was 16 and at a hockey game with family. My own aunt offered me a beer, which I kindly declined. At the age of 18, which is the legal drinking age in certain provinces and territories in Canada, I am frequently offered alcoholic beverages.

Trying to find the root of the problem is difficult. Is it that we aren’t enforcing the laws well enough within our home and personal lives? Perhaps there is too much pressure placed on drinking? Maybe it’s the increase of mental health and stress-related issues? It’s time to take a step back and think before pulling out that bottle of wine, and find out why we consider pulling out the bottle in the first place. Every day we abuse our bodies, leading to health issues in the future.

The reason alcohol-related death rates continue to increase isn’t because of one specific reason, but a multitude that stem from a missing community of support and care for one another. Alcohol, especially for post-secondary students, is sold as some kind of magical potion that will make all the problems of life disappear for a short while. Alcohol isn’t happiness and we should stop telling each other that it is. You can and should share a cold one with your friends, but don’t confuse that drink for a friend.

Image: Wikimedia

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