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Statistics Canada: One-in-five Canadians are heavy drinkers, opioid use remains high

Statistics Canada does point out that the proportion of heavy drinkers has remained the same for the past three years now.

This article was published more than 1 year ago, information might not be accurate.

Roberto Wakerell-Cruz Montreal, QC

Statistics Canada has released the 2018 Community Health figures, which give the public some insight into the health habits of their fellow Canadians. The survey, which provides an overview of Canada’s obesity rates, opioid medication use, cigarette use, and alcohol use, allows us to better understand our nation’s problems, and allows us to begin working on solutions based on real data.

One part of the new data has revealed that one in five Canadians is considered a heavy drinker.

According to Statistics Canada, roughly 6 million Canadians aged 12 and older reported alcohol consumption “that classified them as heavy drinkers” in 2018. Statistics Canada classifies “heavy drinking” as “males who have had five or more drinks, and females who have had four or more drinks, per occasion, at least once a month during the past year.” That is to say, having more than 4 or 5 drinks on one night, at least once a month for a year.

Though this number may initially seem modest, those same figures of five for men and four for women are the same outlines given by the CDC.

Statistics Canada does point out that the proportion of heavy drinkers has remained the same for the past three years now, though.

Males, overall, are more likely than females to be heavy drinkers. Those in Ontario (17%) and Manitoba (16%) were less likely to be heavy drinkers. The provinces who drank the most were residents of Newfoundland and Labrador (28%) and Quebec (21%). Canadians living in rural areas (22%) were also more likely to be heavy drinkers than those living in urban areas (18%).

Smoking rates have also dropped since 2015. In 2018, 19 percent of males and 13 percent of females aged 12 and older smoked cigarettes either daily or occasionally. That’s a drop of 1 and 2 percent, respectively, since 2015.

The figures also give us a grim reminder of the challenges Canada faces in regards to the ongoing opioid epidemic that has plagued regions of Canada and the United States. Figures released yesterday show 3.7 million Canadians aged 15 and older used opioid pain medication.

Of those 3.7 million, close to one million said they used the medication as needed. The remaining 2.7 million reported using them only once or twice, while close to 600,000 Canadians reported daily or almost daily usage, a stunning 21 percent.

When it comes to problematic use, around 10 percent of those who use any opiod pain medication in the past year reported problematic use. That comes to 351,000 out of 3.7 million. Statistics Canada defines “problematic use” as “taking the medication in greater amounts than prescribed or more often than directed, using it to get high, use for reasons other than pain relief, and tampering with a product before taking it.

Problematic use comes in various forms, though the most common was abuse, in which people use greater amounts of the medication than what is directed, at seven percent. Three percent report using the medication for the feeling/to get high. Another four percent said they used the medication for reasons other than pain relief, while another 2 percent indicated having tampered with an opioid product before use.

Canada has a lot on its plate. There are societal issues that we need to learn how to deal with as a nation. Though there is public debate as to how these problems should be dealt with, For more information about Canada’s opioid and drug challenges, click here.

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Roberto Wakerell-Cruz
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