Sunday, January 16, 2011

Make That a Double, Part 2

"Rock-bottom liquor prices should be raised to limit excess drinking among young people and heavy drinkers, but liquor should be given free to homeless drunks to manage their consumption, a new University of Victoria study says ... price is an important driver of how much and how often people use drugs or drink alcohol ...” said Tim Stockwell, director of UVic’s Centre for Addictions Research B.C. (CARBC), referring to similar changes which have been made in Saskatchewan.  “What stands out is alcohol is incredibly cheap at the bottom end ... super-cheap beer is a favourite of youth and heavy drinkers. Raising the cheapest prices will affect their consumption habits ... homeless drinkers are more apt to buy 75-per-cent-proof rum or 22-per-cent fortified wines ...  People in this small and vulnerable group are also more apt to turn to non-beverage sources, such as rubbing alcohol and antifreeze, if real alcohol is too expensive.  While it sounds “counter-intuitive,” Stockwell suggests the best course for this group is for government to provide managed programs that provide stable accommodations and free alcohol.  A recent report in the British medical journal The Lancet studied the relative harmfulness of 20 psychoactive drugs and rated alcohol as the most harmful, followed by heroin and crack cocaine.  The findings may strike some as hysterical but “it does say that alcohol is underestimated in terms of its harmfulness” and we allow it to be available at rock-bottom prices at our peril, Stockwell said ... guidelines suggest the daily maximum number of standard drinks is three for a woman and four for a man.  Suggested weekly maximums are 10 drinks for a woman and 15 for a man.  In B.C., that daily maximum can be exceeded for less than $3 a day, Stockwell said, which is wrong.  The study says cheap alcohol in B.C. is not linked to the cost of living or to the high-alcohol content; the higher the content, often the lower the price, and alcohol prices are considerably lower than in Saskatchewan and Ontario.”  Read more here.