Alcohol addiction a ‘huge problem’ in Prince Edward Island

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

Maureen Coulter
Published on June 30, 2014

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. 

©Guardian photo by Brian McInnis

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.