Problem Drinking in the Capital

Today, Ottawa Public Health (OPH) released a plan to deal with problem drinking in the Capital.

“Though so-called ‘hard’ drugs are often the focus of attention, the most commonly misused substance in Ottawa is actually alcohol,” said Dr. Vera Etches, Associate Medical Officer of Health. “Research indicates alcohol misuse causes a greater burden of illness and death than other drugs and that is why we’ve chosen to take steps to raise awareness of its dangers and to further enhance our efforts in tackling problem drinking in Ottawa.”

A recent epidemiological scan of substance misuse found that alcohol leads to approximately 110 deaths and 970 hospitalizations among adults each year in Ottawa. These are due in large part to injury, mental health conditions, and chronic conditions such as cancers of the digestive system and heart disease. The scan also found that Ottawans’ drinking habits are consistently higher than the provincial average. One quarter of Ottawa adults and almost three quarters of young adult males reported heavy or frequent binge drinking in the past year, and one-in-three adults exceeded the recommended weekly limits set out by Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines.

Given these findings, OPH will be strengthening its efforts to reduce problem drinking and its associated harms by:

  • Building resilience in children and youth through services to parents and school age youth;
  • Promoting a culture of moderation by raising awareness of Canada’s Low Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines and expanding partnerships with agencies and organizations working with young adults;
  • Increasing access to treatment and referral services by promoting self-screening tools and reaching out to primary care practitioners and improving contact with vulnerable populations.

“Canada has new guidelines about low risk alcohol consumption and our primary goal is to raise awareness about the dangers of alcohol misuse.  These new guidelines educate on maximums for daily and weekly drinking, standard drink sizes, and when not to drink such as during pregnancy,” said Dr. Etches. “OPH recognizes that addressing substance misuse, including alcohol and drugs, requires a whole-community approach and OPH will continue to work at bringing together agencies and individuals from all sectors, to address the growing needs of this community.” Dr. Etches went on to say, “Our efforts in addressing problem drinking will stay true to four key pillars for addressing substance misuse: prevention, harm reduction, treatment and enforcement.”

Released today, OPH’s report and technical documents, which will be tabled at the Ottawa Board of Health’s next meeting, scheduled for Monday, March 18, 2013.  For more information and details on Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines, visit Healthy Ottawa.

For more information on healthy sexuality go to or call the Ottawa Public Health Information Line at 613-580-6744.  You can also follow OPH on Twitter and Facebook.

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