Monthly Archives: September 2015

Lack of housing, violence, addictions impede Nunavik women’s success: study

Lack of housing, violence, addictions impede Nunavik women’s success: study

Three-quarters of respondents were victims of violence



Nunavik women are at the heart of their families and communities, but that comes with a number of challenges, they say.

A new report on the life and concerns of Nunavimmiut women shows that they consider the housing shortage, domestic violence, substance abuse and shortfalls inthe education and justice systems in Nunavik serious threats to the well-being of Inuit in the region — and to women’s capacity to achieve equality with men.

“Bring Hope and Restore Peace,” prepared by Saturviit Inuit Women of Nunavik, with assistance from researchers at Quebec City’s Université Laval, reveals that a shortage of safe and affordable housing ranks among the biggest barriers to well-being in Nunavik, which is short an estimated 900 social housing units.

Thirty per cent of women respondents said they lived in overcrowded homes, which put them at a greater risk of suffering from alcohol abuse, violence, sexual abuse and depression.

The report captures the stories of 108 different woman, 18 to 85 years old, from seven different Nunavik communities.

The respondents said that crowded living conditions make it difficult to provide a good environment for raising and educating children. Almost 90 per cent of respondents were mothers.

They said a lack of housing options forces many women to stay in abusive relationships, and that the handful of women’s shelters in the region don’t offer a viable solution to most women.

Violence is a pervasive issue: 74 per cent of respondents said they have experienced violence at home, while 46 per cent said they had been sexually assaulted.

That abuse was often driven by alcohol. According to those who participated in the study, the high rate of alcohol abuse in Nunavik is directly connected to the general suffering inherited from the traumatic events of colonization.

The survey participants are living proof: 39 per cent identified themselves as recovered alcoholics; 10 per cent considered themselves heavy drinkers.

But women do not, for the most part, believe that banning alcohol will help prevent its abuse in Nunavik, noting that therapy, education and prevention would serve the region better.

“Having a bar in the community is sometime seen as a good way to provide a permanent and controlled place that is meant for drinking and partying,” the report said, “in order to protect children from negative role models and violence at home.”

Little faith is placed in the justice system, women noted in the report, because it is largely managed by non-Inuit.

Nunavimmiut women who have been victims of crime are often reluctant to press charges against an assailant because they’ll continue to be in his presence — either at home or in the community — through the length of the proceedings, which could go on for years.

But they say the introduction of justice committees at the community level has allowed Inuit to help other Inuit through a reconciliation process.

And those social bonds are critical, women say.

“I remember in the past when couples were torn by violence or arguments, the parents or some leaders would talk to them and give advice to those couples,” said a 67-year-old respondent. “But nowadays, we are not doing that. Nobody is giving advice to couples who are in trouble or who need help.”

“Bring Hope and Restore Peace” also highlights deficiencies in the education system which result in high drop-out rates among Nunavimmiut youth, and lack of post-secondary aspirations.

Forty per cent of women who took part in the survey were high school graduates, and just 10 had post-secondary degrees.

Thirty-eight per cent of respondents were not working at the time they were surveyed; 31 per cent said they were struggling financially.

“Giving Nunavimmiut access to an appropriate education system is essential to addressing all social issues because it is the chief means to foster hope, pride, awareness and confidence in their ability and future,” the report said.

“Education is indispensable for the youth to move forward, to control their destiny and to become independent.”

In the report’s conclusion, Nunavimmiut women say that restoring peace in Nunavik communities is a collective responsibility, calling on all levels of government and Inuit leadership to deliver support to the region which respects the Inuit worldview.

“It is everyone’s duty to protect and support each coming generation at its own level,” the report reads.

Nunavimmiut women say more communication and more resources are necessary for reducing the gap in services between the North and South, and also to guarantee women’s equality with men.

You can read the full report here.

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What are your thoughts: ‘Test all babies for alcohol syndrome’

What do you think? Should all babies first bowel movement be tested to determine if a mother consumed alcohol when pregnant? The following article was printed in the Irish Examiner Reporter Friday September 25th, 2015. Keep in mind when reading it:

  • Testing meconium identifies alcohol use but it does not guarantee a child has FASD.
  • 50% of pregnancies are unplanned and the majority of women consume alcohol.
  • No woman consumes alcohol wanting to harm her child.
  • Shame and blame do not lead to change.

By Evelyn Ring
Irish Examiner Reporter

All babies should undergo a test to find out if their mother drank alcohol during pregnancy, a neonatal expert told the Joint Committee on Health and Children.

Adrienne Foran described foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) as the “elephant in the room”, because Irish people were uncomfortable tackling alcohol abuse.

FAS refers to a number of birth defects caused by a mother’s alcohol abuse during pregnancy.

The level of alcohol that causes FAS is unknown, although binge drinking is particularly harmful.

Dr Foran, a consultant neonatologist, said there was no data on the number of babies exposed to alcohol during pregnancy.

However, a baby’s first bowel movement can reveal if their mother drank alcohol during pregnancy and if the child will suffer intelligence problems in later life.

Dr Foran said the Health Research Board had been asked to support a project so newborn babies could be tested anonymously.

The consultant, who is based at the Rotunda Maternity Hospital and Temple Street University Children’s Hospital, in Dublin, said it was likely that more babies were at risk of FAS.

“We might see one or two cases a year, where it is quite clearly full-blown FAS, but the mother would be an identified alcoholic,” she said.

Rotunda Maternity Hospital

“If we don’t know how widespread the problem is, we don’t know how to deal with it,” said Dr Foran.

It has become more socially acceptable for women to drink alcohol and Dr Foran said more younger women were drinking more.

“It was socially unacceptable for my grandmother to sit in a pub 40 years ago, but it is the norm now for women as young as 13 or 14 to drink heavily,” she said.

Dr Foran also told the committee that most of the drug-addicted mothers seen at the Rotunda over the last five to 10 years were poly-drug users.

One of the biggest challenges for doctors was when a mother was taking tranquilisers such as benzodiazepines.

“The half-life of those drugs is much longer and the baby may not show show drug-withdrawal symptoms for two to three weeks,” said Dr Foran.

Temple Street University Children’s Hospital

The consultant said 106 opiate-dependent pregnant women attended the Rotunda last year and 68 of their babies were delivered.

Children affected by their mother’s drinking may not be identified until they are aged two or three, or at school age, when behavioural and learning difficulties become problematic.

She said close to half of the babies would be admitted to hospital, but not always for neonatal abstinence syndrome.

Some of the babies would have been born prematurely, while some would have blood/sugar problems.

However, about a third, and sometimes more, would have full-blown neonatal abstinence syndrome.

“Ideally, these babies, once identified, should be nursed in a dark, quiet room, with dimmed light and swaddling,” said Dr Foran. “But that is not possible in the Rotunda in 2015. We don’t have the space.”

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One in 10 Pregnant Women Admit They Drink Sometimes


By: Maggie Fox

One in 10 pregnant women in the U.S. admit to drinking alcohol at least every now and then, and a third of the drinkers admit to binge drinking, federal researchers said Thursday.

They’re putting their children at risk of fetal alcohol syndrome, which affects 2 to 5 percent of first-graders, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

There’s no known safe level of alcohol use during pregnancy. Alcohol passes from mother to fetus and experts advise women who are pregnant or who may become pregnant to just keep away from alcohol.

“All types of alcohol should be avoided, including red or white wine, beer, and liquor,” said Cheryl Tan, an epidemiologist in CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.

“Excessive alcohol use is a risk factor for a wide range of health and social problems including liver cirrhosis, certain cancers, depression, motor vehicle crashes, and violence,” Tan and colleagues wrote in the agency’s weekly report on death and disease.

“Alcohol use during pregnancy can lead to fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) and other adverse birth outcomes. Community stud­ies estimate that as many as 2 percent to 5 percent of first grade students in the United States might have an FASD, which include physical, behavioral, or learning impairments.”

The researchers looked at a survey of more than 200,000 women taken from 2011 to 2013 for their report. It included more than 8,000 who were pregnant at the time.

Older mothers and college graduates were more likely to report drinking. Ten percent of all the pregnant women said they’d had a drink in the past 30 days, and 3 percent said they’d had four or more in a row, which is classified as binge drinking. d469bf0370b47589103fa95923be170533345c67_480x271

Nearly 19 percent of the pregnant women aged 35 to 44 admitted to having at least one drink while pregnant. Thirteen percent of college graduates and 13 percent of unmarried women also said they’d had a drink.

In comparison, just over half of all women aged 18 to 44 in the U.S. report having an alcoholic drink in the past 30 days and 18 percent report binge drinking.

But the pregnant women who admitted the binge drinking said they did it more often — 4.6 times over the past 30 days, compared to three times over the past month for all women in the same age group.

“One possible explanation for this might be that women who binge drink during pregnancy are more likely to be alcohol-dependent than the average female binge drinker, and therefore binge drink more frequently,” the researchers wrote.

“We know that alcohol use during pregnancy can cause birth defects and developmental disabilities in babies, as well as an increased risk of other pregnancy problems, such as miscarriage, stillbirth, and prematurity,” said Coleen Boyle, director of CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.

“This is an important reminder that women should not drink any alcohol while pregnant. It’s just not worth the risk.” No Alcohol during Pregnancy

The report may underestimate how many women drink while pregnant. The researchers noted women may not want to admit to behavior they know is harmful, and women often do not realize they are pregnant for the first four weeks or sometimes longer.

For full report please visit:

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Reality check: Does making booze harder to buy make people safer?


Ontario’s announcement this week that it plans to sell certain kinds of beer in select grocery stores starting three months from now came as good news to some, but it also raised public health alarm bells.

Groups including the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and theCanadian Centre for Substance Abuse are calling on the province to adopt a provincial “alcohol strategy,” slow down its liberalization of alcohol retail regulations — and maybe change tack altogether.

“From a public health perspective, a move in this direction really is heading down the wrong road,” says Wayne Skinner, CAMH’s Deputy Clinical Director of Addiction.

Does greater access to alcohol mean greater likelihood of abuse and harms resulting from its consumption?

It’s complicated.

Canada’s patchwork of provincial liquor laws makes it difficult to measure. The country’s been inching toward liberalization — from the partial privatization of liquor sales in Ontario, B.C. and elsewhere to the loosening of restrictions on buying booze in one province and taking it to another.

That worries Skinner.

“You need to be really careful about expanding alcohol availability.”

“These are unpopular opinions,” he admits. “But … from a public health perspective the goal should be, ‘How can we actually reduce the harms around alcohol consumption? How can we educate people around moderate drinking practices but also educate people not to drink?’”

Dan Malleck doesn’t buy it.

The Brock University health sciences professor and author of Try to Control Yourself: The regulation of public drinking in post prohibition Ontario calls these public health objections “histrionics.”

“It’s not like everyone in Alberta is drunk all the time,” he said.

“We have this utter fear of alcohol.”

There is concerning evidence, however.

A 2011 study from the Centre for Addictions Research of British Columbia found a positive correlation between the number of liquor stores per 1,000 residents and the rate of alcohol-related deaths: The more liquor stores there were in a given health region, the more people in that region died of alcohol-related causes.

“As the number of outlets in an area goes up, consumption goes up. And also alcohol-related deaths go up,” said Tim Stockwell, the centre’s director and the paper’s primary author.

“It’s not a huge effect, but it’s there.”

Ontario health officials have cited Stockwell’s study, concerned something similar could happen in Ontario.

But there are far more factors at play — including price, culture, education and socioeconomic inequities — determining the extent of alcohol abuse, misuse, addiction and deaths.

A 2013 study by the same B.C. Centre for Addictions Research found a much stronger price association: Higher alcohol prices meant fewer alcohol-related hospital admissions.

“Price is much more powerful than the density … of liquor outlets,” Stockwell said.

“So if you want to reduce problems and harm, particularly paying attention to the floor prices that the heaviest drinkers and the youngest drinkers gravitate towards, that’s where you get a lot of impact.”

And provincial drinking rates don’t appear directly correlated to alcohol availability:

heavy drinking by province, 2014

The Northwest Territories and Yukon have the highest rate of people who say they’re “heavy drinkers,” even though sales in both are largely restricted to government-owned stores.

Newfoundland and New Brunswick have heavier drinking rates than Quebec and Alberta, despite having more government-controlled liquor sales.

And high alcoholism rates in some rural areas are likely attributable to factors other than accessibility.

“Maybe people have less things to spend their money on in rural areas, the entertainment is less diverse and they perhaps have more restricted movements,” Stockwell said.

“I think one has to think … about helping communities be cohesive without the default … drinking occasions.”

Impaired-driving rates don’t appear to correlate with alcohol deregulation, either:

impaired driving per 100k

The Northwest Territories, Yukon and Saskatchewan have significantly higher police-reported drunk driving rates than any other regions, despite having more government regulation of their liquor sales than Alberta, Quebec and, arguably, B.C.

Saskatchewan addressed its high drunk-driving rates with minimum alcohol pricing in 2010, Stockwell said.

“We have detected significant drops in impaired driving since then.”

Quebec is another counter-intuitive example: certain kinds of alcohol are much more readily available and the province has high overall alcohol consumption rates, but it has a lower rate of self-reported heavy drinking, according to Statistics Canada. That means there’s less binge drinking and more moderate consumption in the province.

“When alcohol was introduced in grocery stores in the ’70s, everybody expected there would be a high rise in heavy drinking — It did not occur,” said Catherine Paradis, senior research and policy analyst with the Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse.

“Quebec has a drinking culture that is different. Prevention is done way differently than elsewhere in Canada.”

Paradis cites a multi-million-dollar campaign educating Quebecois about binge drinking, which public health officials define as — brace yourself — more than five drinks at a time for men, and four drinks at a time for women.

Tackling problem drinking and alcohol-related illness and death goes beyond making it inconvenient to buy booze, Paradis said.

She also points to important regional differences in what people drink and when they drink it: Quebecois are most likely to drink wine and least likely to drink spirits, the inverse of the prairie provinces, according to a 2010 study Paradis co-authored. Maritimers report more binge drinking and are less likely to drink with meals.

“Drinkers from Québec, Ontario and BC show a drinking style that is closer to the Mediterranean culture, i.e., men and women in these provinces drink more often, drink more wine, drink less spirits, and drink during a meal more often than drinkers from the other provinces,” the study reads.

(That study also found women in the Maritimes drink coolers more than elsewhere in Canada.)

“Alcohol-related harms and outcomes are not simply related to availability,” she said.

“I worry [governments are] going to loosen the rules without making the necessary effort on the other side.”

A 2013 study evaluating Canadian provinces on their alcohol public health interventions recommended minimum pricing, government-controlled retail, limiting the “physical availability” of alcohol and limiting advertising that targets young people, among other things.

“There are so many economic, demographic and other factors that it’s not reliable or usual practice in policy research to make simple comparisons across different jurisdictions at one point in time,” Stockwell said.

“Also, there is no simple correlation between having a monopoly and having good policy –  a monopoly only

provides an opportunity for good policy which may not be taken.”

Retrieved from:

Watchful parents help early-maturing girls avoid alcohol abuse

Health | Mon Sep 21, 2015 12:43pm EDT

Watchful parents help early-maturing girls avoid alcohol abuse

Alcohol and Pregnancy Science


Alcohol and Pregnancy Science
Alcohol, like the chemical element mercury, is a confirmed teratogen (a substance that interferes with normal prenatal development). Alcohol can cause central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) malformations with associated neurobehavioral dysfunction. By comparison, lead is a neurotoxin but not a teratogen in that it produces neurobehavioral dysfunction in the absence of brain and spinal cord malformations.

Science definitively recognizes that when a pregnant woman consumes alcohol, the alcohol crosses the placenta into the blood supply of the developing embryo or fetus. An embryo or fetus has neither the developed organ systems nor enzymes able to metabolize alcohol.

The first paper in the medical literature describing a constellation of birth defects linked to prenatal alcohol exposure was published in France in 1968 by Dr. Paul Lemoine.

The first paper in U.S. medical literature appeared in 1973 authored by Drs. David Smith and Ken Lyons Jones. As of 2012, nearly 4,000 papers have been published confirming the toxicity of alcohol to the embryo or fetus, the underlying mechanisms of alcohol-induced damage to the embryo or fetus, and the physical and functional birth defects related to prenatal alcohol exposure.

No published study has suggested that alcohol is not a teratogen or demonstrated that prenatal alcohol use has any potential benefit to human development.

As described by the Institute of Medicine, the basic and biomedical research demonstrates that alcohol damages the developing brain through multiple actions at different cellular sites interfering with normal development by disrupting cell migration, cell functions, and causing cell death.

Alcohol can cause damage to multiple regions of the brain, specifically to the corpus collosum (connects brain hemispheres), cerebellum (consciousness and voluntary processes), basal ganglia (movement and cognition), hippocampus (emotional behavior and memory), hypothalamus (sensory input), among other neural regions.

Ethanol is the principal psychoactive constituent in alcoholic beverages. In utero it has been found to:

  • Interfere with normal proliferation of nerve cells;
  • Increase the formation of free radicals–cell damaging molecular fragments;
  • Alter cells ability to regulate cell growth, division and survival;
  • Impair the development and function of astocytes, cells that guide the migration of nerve cells to their proper places;
  • Interfere with the normal adhesion of cells to one another;
  • Alter the formation of axons, nerve cell extensions that conduct impulses away from the cell body;
  • Alter the pathways of biochemical or electrical signals within cells;
  • Alter the expression of genes, including genes that regulate cell development.

Human development occurs in an orderly process of biochemical and structural transition during which new constituents are being formed and spatially arranged throughout gestation. At any time in the span of development these ongoing processes can be subtly or severely disturbed or abruptly halted resulting in abnormal development or fetal death.

Therefore, at any time alcohol is present it has the potential to harm development. For example, the hallmark facial dysmorphology associated with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome will only occur if alcohol is present during the specific window of development.

Of all the substances of abuse, including marijuana, cocaine and heroin, alcohol produces by far the most serious neurobehavioral effects on the embryo or fetus.

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New Calgary addiction program to bridge psychology and substance abuse

She’s been battling her addiction to narcotics for the last three years but isn’t ready to seek treatment, fearing she’ll lose her kids.

A.M. — who requested to have her name withheld — is among many women in Calgary who are addicted to prescription drugs, but are too afraid to seek help and too busy for three-month group therapy sessions, according to Melissa Molloy, who’s with program development at the Recovery Acres Society’s 1835 house.

As a result, the clinic plans to roll out the Women’s Co-occuring Disorder Outpatient Program to treat women who suffer from mental illness and substance abuse.

The program will be the first of its kind in the city, where both psychology and substance abuse specialists will be readily available to patients, said Dr. John Streukens, who helped the society develop its two-week intensive treatment program.

The program will see women cycle in and out of a group of 15, where those who’ve been in the program longer can act as mentors to those entering it, Streukens said.

“I believe it will provide a needed service to women suffering from co-occurring issues who simply can’t exit life for 30-45 days,” he said. “It’s critical we do this.”

A.M. would be an ideal candidate for the program, but admits she isn’t willing to participate yet — she’s lost her trust in the system, after a councillor at a different recovery clinic told her she might lose her kids if they found out she was using drugs in front of them, she said.

“Nobody needs to tell an addict how terrible they’ve been.” she’s said, wiping a tear from her face. “Even though I’m not using drugs now, I look at my kids now and think every day what a sh—y mom I am.”

She said she won’t touch the drugs again — she doesn’t want to lose her kids and family.

“I think it’s by the grace of God I’m still alive with the amount of medication I was taking,” she said. “What good would I be to my kids now if I was dead?”

The program is expected to roll out by the end of this year.

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