Alcohol addiction a ‘huge problem’ in Prince Edward Island

Maureen Coulter
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Dr. Chris Simpson, president-elect of the Canadian Medical Association, speaks to a reporter during a break in the Medical Society of P.E.I.'s annual meeting Saturday in Stanley Bridge. 

Medical Society of P.E.I. calling on province to promote safer drinking

One of the three resolutions discussed during the Medical Society of P.E.I.’s 159th annual meeting was an issue that seems to be at the forefront lately — alcohol addictions.

Dr. Jerry O’Hanley, co-chair of the health care and promotion committee, says alcohol addiction is a huge problem on Prince Edward Island.

“Our ability to even define the scope of the problem is problematic. We don’t have good numbers of how many alcoholics we have,” he said.

He said part of the issue is as a country, Canadians consume more alcohol per capita than most other countries and P.E.I. has a higher binge drinking rate than the rest of Canada.

Dr. Chris Simpson, president-elect of the Canadian Medical Association, said there is an insidious nature to alcohol addiction.

“It’s this fine line between the acceptable amount of social drinking and crossing the line into addiction.”

Dr. David Bannon, president of the Medical Society of P.E.I., said since alcohol is so readily available in society and has been so habituated and accepted, it’s really hard to deal with the damaging effects.

“We often seem to be turning a blind eye or in worse cases we enable the behaviour. We have to first acknowledge that we have a serious problem with alcoholism and we have to deal with it,” Bannon said.

Simpson said he feels the biggest problem is to create a social network and a medical network where alcoholism can be recognized and intervened upon.

“There are people who manage to hide it for a long long time. They are functional at their jobs and functioning on a very high level and then they crash. I think recognizing it early is the key.”

Bannon said P.E.I. has very dedicated and talented people who work in this area but it’s not as effective as it needs to be.

“It’s by no fault of the system, no fault of the people that are in the system trying to do this work.”

The resolution discussed at the annual meeting was to request the P.E.I. Department of Health and Wellness to address alcohol abuse in the province and to promote consuming safer levels of alcohol based on the national low-risk drinking guidelines in hopes it will minimize the negative impacts of excessive drinking.

Organizations: Medical Society of P.E.I., Canadian Medical Association, PEI Department

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Canada.Dr

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Recent comments

  • Food for thought...
    July 02, 2014 - 18:01

    Having more liquor stores opened is not the issue; lots of people drink alcohol in a responsible manner and do not have addiction issues. Acutally, according to the Brewers Association of Canada, the per capita consumption in PEI is about middle of the pack in relation to the rest of Canada. If binge drinking occurs more frequently, the issue is the way Islanders are drinking, not where they are purchasing their liquor. Furthermore, there are supplies for making alcohol at home with relative ease--having fewer stores or shorter hours will not decrease access. If you are addicted to alcohol, you'll find a way to get it. I don't think this is the biggest issue they have to talk about, though--prescription drug abuse is through the roof, with huge amounts of pills being prescribed by doctors. I know of people that drug-seek all the time--they are never or rarely questioned on why they are re-filling early, why they haven't followed the treatment plan, but time and time again are given more painkillers. It doesn't take too long for this to turn into a very serious addiction. If doctors are looking for ways to help, this might be a better place to start. Let's put some serious parameters in place to start monitoring the prescriptions so we can start to manage the addiction piece of it.

  • chris
    July 01, 2014 - 00:16

    Government sponsored liquor stores . High unemployment and low wages. The worst education system in Canada . Forgot to mention brutal winter conditions . Go figure, a recipe for alcohol and drug addiction . No wonder some islanders turn to alcohol . Conversely some islanders have the strength and will to forgo alcohol dependence, and like our ancestors , fought with every fiber of their body to see the fruit of their labors. I'll side with our ancestors every time.

  • don
    July 01, 2014 - 00:13

    Let me try and get this straight. “Dr. Heather Morrison said Islanders are more likely to be obese and drink heavily than the typical Canadian”. Is she saying islanders are all drunks? Then she says “Another challenge, she said, is P.E.I.’s population is older than the Canadian average.” older people drink more maybe she thinks the older islanders are to dumb to know right from wrong? To start with she wants to stop the drinking on PEI but yet her boss needs the money from the booze. Doc you will not win just in case you do not know but MONEY comes before a life on the island. maybe the board should go have more meeting and have a few dozen more drinks.

  • Jack Schitt
    June 30, 2014 - 22:30

    Living in PEI is reason enough for anyone to take up the bottle

  • Liberal meal deal
    June 30, 2014 - 16:27

    The problem with essive drinking on PEI is due to the state inwhich this island is in such as on every corner you turn there is a private or government funded liquor store and being open on Sundays is more access to liquor.There is not much prosparity for better times here there is no wonder people are leaving this great island that most of us who use to call it home well it is not home when a person cannot make a decent living there,the island is in for a very rough ride with not much for anyone there to look forward too,just sad to think our island is going down the tube very fast.

  • Fed up
    June 30, 2014 - 15:03

    Alcohol addiction just another MEDICAL problem on PEI. Not nearly enough doctors to do anything about it!! Just like ALL medical problems!! Ghiz government so busy building roundabouts that everything else takes a back seat!! Currie brags he brought in ELEVEN doctors....EIGHTEEN have left....but he doesn't tell is that. The way PEI treats our doctors we can't keep them when we DO t's K them into coming

  • don
    June 30, 2014 - 13:30

    Chris Simpson. on PEI profits comes before anything else including a human life. ghiz and wes needs all the money from the useless drunks so they can feed the rich on PEI. so you are blowing smoke on pei. you can murder anyone while drunk get a few months in jail but you steal a candy bar and get life.

  • Not Just
    June 30, 2014 - 10:09

    Alcohol is a problem everywhere in the world that it is sold. That's why it's the #1 most abused legal drug. It is glorified and people make a lot of money from it. Do what you can to help but this will always be a problem until the end of time.

  • BrokenSystem
    June 30, 2014 - 09:31

    He's being politically correct. While the workers are fantastic in much of the addictions part of mental health, they do know at those "front lines" that they have lack of resources - Ghiz and his government have NOT invested in more access to treatment / and solutions to barriers for those wanting "confidentiality" for instance as they seek treatment. There are some weaknesses in the system like ANY system. So, certainly the individuals have the right and responsibility for their health and behaviour - like any illness - but it also becomes our community and societal problems when it impacts families, communities, crime, health, mental health, road safety, etc. It's in our communities best interest to - like any system / if we have it, fund it appropriately and use it efficiently and keep it relevant - adapt it to meet the evolving, changing needs. Ghiz has dropped the ball there!

  • jerry
    June 30, 2014 - 09:27

    But it's a CHOICE that people are free to make in this democracy.

    • Parent
      June 30, 2014 - 11:17

      So what the other people in that person's life that doesn't have any "choice", like the kids? Why is it better to spend the money on foster care and social services instead of treating the problem? Cigarette smoking is a choice but we fund cancer treatment.

    • voter
      June 30, 2014 - 14:34

      when one is addicted ,it is no longer a choice !!!!

  • You Said It
    June 30, 2014 - 09:26

    Might as well have a drink instead of thinking about where the Island is headed. We're sinking in bad government, poisonous water and land, poor education, no doctors, minimal UI and social assistance, industry behind every bad decision, and no future to speak of. I'll drink to that.

  • Billy
    June 30, 2014 - 09:18

    Well people continue the blame game here and let's see who the REAL culprit is here....of course not yourself so let's blame government or the profencency of liquor stores...... How about personal accountability as nobody is forcing anybody else to push you into the stores are they... Way to go islanders! IT AINT ME BABE!

  • Truth Seeker
    Truth Seeker
    June 30, 2014 - 08:34

    Maybe I'm missing something but I've noticed a steady decline in alcohol being a part of community, social and work related celebrations. I've observed a more responsible approach by citizens when it comes to alcohol. I attribute this to awareness. Am I missing something, is there a hidden demographic or is this just more dribble designed to create fear and unrest in a usually pleasant and uninterrupted way of life here is PEI? In short, I don't trust this publication or author of this story.

    • ummm
      June 30, 2014 - 12:02

      You're using anecdotal evidence to make a conclusion about something that perhaps isn't actually on your radar. An understanding of why anecdotal evidence doesn't help us understand social trends may help you out.

  • Citizen
    June 30, 2014 - 08:06

    Alcohol being a problem is an old problem here,........ not a surprise. Drinking and driving even worse! Yes, address this doctors, but how about addressing increasing rates of cancers, pesticides, wait times, etc- while you are at it. Thanks. And is it not true stat wise that a percentage of professionals, example, like doctors ,have alarming alcohol and drug issues themselves? They are not immune either. More liquor outlets seem to be opening all the time............big business?

  • Ryan Gallant
    June 30, 2014 - 07:53

    That's a shocker.

  • Ryan Gallant
    June 30, 2014 - 07:52


  • pattycakes
    June 30, 2014 - 07:49

    Let's solve the problem by opening more private liquor stores!!!!

  • Ghiz Lib govt
    June 30, 2014 - 07:39

    Ghiz Lib govt drives me to drink.

  • james
    June 30, 2014 - 07:22

    What is the answer? Build more liquor stores of course!

  • reality
    June 30, 2014 - 05:48

    ----Huge drinking problem--??/ huge drinking"SICKNESS"!!! ancestry-environment !!!!! whether problem,sickness, fault ,no fault, blame .no blame -- --still--the person who is the problem drinker -addicted or not--MUST TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR HIS OR HER OWN ACTIONS---