The Ontario government’s inclusion of liquor stores as an essential service permitted to stay open in the time of coronavirus set off a firestorm online.
Many questioned why alcohol sales would be allowed to continue amid a global health emergency.
But with 3.2 per cent of the population having reported alcohol abuse or dependence, and nearly 15,000 deaths attributable to alcohol, Canadians are missing the point — a number of points, according to experts.
“Alcohol dependency can be psychologically and physiologically. If the supply is cut off for that population of people, it can be potentially catastrophic,” said Elaine Hyshka, a researcher and assistant professor with the School of Public Health at the University of Alberta.
“Not everyone with alcohol use disorder who abstains from drinking will experience medical complications, but for the smaller proportion that does, it can be life-threatening,” Hyshka explained.
“They can go into withdrawal, which can cause seizures and other different psychiatric complications.”
Canada’s health system is already under immense pressure.
The influx of COVID-19 cases has driven parts of the country to look at new ways to meet the demand for treatment, containment and testing. In some provinces, physicians have been brought out of retirement. In others, specialized nurses are being rapidly retrained and redeployed where they’re needed most.
Some health care workers are operating out of parking lots, testing people with mild symptoms of the respiratory virus in a drive-thru setup.
As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau put it on Tuesday, COVID-19 is “the biggest public health crisis our country has ever seen.”
It’s putting Canada’s health care system to the test, said Craig Janes, director of the University of Waterloo’s School of Public Health.
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The opinions expressed in this post are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the FASD Prevention Conversation Project, its stakeholders or funders.
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