Wasted lives: The cost of alcohol addiction – CBC.ca

The ongoing opioid crisis and rash of overdoses from illicit drugs has been at the forefront of many British Columbian’s minds, but the biggest, least discussed addiction on the rise in the province is a legal substance: alcohol.

B.C. has the highest rate in the country of hospitalizations entirely caused by alcohol, and consumption is rising faster in the province than elsewhere in Canada.

British Columbians drink, on average, 9.4 litres of pure alcohol each year —   the equivalent of roughly 14 bottles of beer or two and half bottles of wine each week. Consumption has continued to rise every year since 2012.

Addictions researcher Tim Stockwell said the provincial government’s policy to make alcohol available in more locations and at more times of the day is a factor in the high level of consumption. 

“Efforts have been made to liberalize its availability without doing much to minimize some of the consequences,” said Stockwell.

British Columbians, on average, drank 9.40 litres of absolute alcohol in 2016-2017, the equivalent of roughly 14 bottles of beer or two and half bottles of wine each week. (AOD Monitoring Project, Centre for Addictions Research of B.C./University of Victoria)

Day to day costs

Dr. Keith Ahamad, an addictions doctor at St. Paul’s Hospital and a researcher at the B.C. Centre on Substance Use, witnesses the consequences of alcohol addiction firsthand every day.

“The hospital is literally filled with the consequences of alcohol addiction,” Ahamad said. “The number of people that present to the emergency department as a direct consequence of acute alcohol intoxication day-to-day is overwhelming.”

Last year, at least 36 per cent of emergency room visits to St. Paul’s and Vancouver General Hospital for substance abuse were alcohol-related. 

That number is conservative and just relates to cases where excessive drinking was the cause, Ahamad said.

It doesn’t include broken bones,

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