Author: Lorinda Strang, Executive Director, Orchard Recovery Center
As Canada engages in a vital discussion about introducing warning labels on alcohol, it’s crucial to understand the broader implications for public health. As the Executive Director of a drug and alcohol rehab center that has been in operation since 2002, I view this as a crucial step in addressing the nuances of alcohol consumption.
Understanding the Move
The rationale behind the push for warning labels is grounded in public health concerns. Recent studies and reports, including one from the Canadian Cancer Society, have highlighted the direct and indirect health risks associated with alcohol consumption. It’s crucial to understand that alcohol, while a socially accepted substance, carries risks that often go unnoticed or underplayed.
A Balanced Perspective
While many people consume alcohol without significant issues, it’s essential to be aware of the potential risks. Warning labels would be a step towards empowering individuals to make informed decisions about their alcohol use.
Health Risks and Personal Reflection
- Increased Risk of Cancers:
Alcohol is classified as a Group 1 carcinogen (cancer-causing substance) by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Drinking any alcohol – beer, wine or spirits – increases your risk of developing at least 9 different types of cancer, including breast, colorectal, esophageal, laryngeal, liver, mouth, pharyngeal, stomach and pancreatic cancers. Evidence indicates regular alcohol consumption over time – even at low levels – increases the risk of developing an alcohol-associated cancer.
- Cardiovascular Diseases:
Regular or heavy drinking can lead to heart diseases, including hypertension and stroke.
- Mental Health Issues:
Alcohol misuse is often linked with mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety.
- Dependency and Addiction:
Perhaps the most known yet overlooked risk is the potential for developing alcohol dependency and addiction.
- Alcohol and Pregnancy:
Alcohol in the mother’s blood passes to the baby through the umbilical cord. Alcohol use during pregnancy can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and a range of lifelong physical, behavioural, and intellectual disabilities. These disabilities are known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). There is no known amount of alcohol that is safe during any stage of pregnancy or while breastfeeding.
The Role of Treatment Centers
At Orchard Recovery Center, we focus on providing medical interventions and psychological support in an environment that fosters wellness. Our approach is not just about addressing the symptoms of alcohol misuse but also involves nurturing the overall mental and physical wellbeing of our clients. This holistic approach ensures that individuals receive the comprehensive care they need to embark on a lifelong journey toward recovery and wellness.
Reflecting on Your Relationship with Alcohol
It’s a helpful exercise to push pause on your drinking and take time to evaluate what areas of your life improve. Many of our clients note enhanced quality of sleep, joy, renewed excitement for life, better job performance and contentment in relationships. If the thought of cutting back on alcohol feels overwhelming or impossible, or if you experience physical withdrawal symptoms, this could be an indication of a deeper issue that requires professional help.
A Global Perspective
The movement towards warning labels on alcohol in Canada is in line with global efforts to educate the public about the known risks associated with alcohol consumption. Many countries have adopted similar measures to inform people about known risks, promote responsible drinking, or leave alcohol behind to improve overall wellbeing and health.
Conclusion: Time for a Healthier Approach
Knowledge is the best form of prevention, especially when it comes to health risks associated with alcohol; clear warning labels convey critical information, guiding individuals to make safer choices and understand potential consequences. A warning label could include a direct quote from the Canadian Cancer Agency: The less alcohol you drink, the lower your cancer risk.
This blog reflects the views and opinions of Lorinda Strang, Executive Director at Orchard Recovery Center located on Bowen Island, B.C. The information provided is based on current research and public health policies.