Premier Ford’s alcohol-sales expansion is reckless
The dangers of excessive drinking — to individuals, families and the health-care system — are well known. Yet Ontario will make it easier to buy booze. This is folly.
He should have focused on fulfilling his pledge to end 'hallway health care' instead.
Published Dec 21, 2023
As an emergency physician, I know first-hand the implications of excessive alcohol use. But Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Health Minister Sylvia Jones may not. Here are some: broken bones, broken spines, intracranial bleeding and broken lives.
The excessive use of alcohol is a daily reality in overpacked ERs. Every night, patients are picked up by paramedics — bloodied, soiled and covered in vomit. Patients are frequently aggressive and require physical and chemical restraint to protect themselves and ER staff. Patients often hit, spit and kick already demoralized staff.
We care for such patients with caution and compassion. I try to give them hope, de-stigmatize their situation and motivate them to change. We know intoxicated patients can easily have a missed injury. As a result, patients repeatedly undergo CT brain scanning, exposing them to radiation and increasing their risk of cancer. Even under medical care, intoxicated patients with head injuries can die. In Ontario, 4.3 per cent of all deaths are due to alcohol use.
Excessive drinking leads many to feeling suicidal and confined against their will in the ER while they sober up. For many patients, this is a regular cycle. In 2019, there were 4,000 suicide deaths in Canada and 1,000 were attributable to the use of alcohol.