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Will the new guidelines reduce drinking? Doctor hopes, suspicious buyers and sellers of alcohol

Will the new guidelines reduce drinking?  Doctor hopes, suspicious buyers and sellers of alcohol


New Brunswickers have had a week to swallow new guidelines from the Canadian Center on Substance Use and Addiction for low-risk alcohol use, and they’re going more easily for some than others.

It’s a good thing to let people know that a low number of drinks is the threshold for causing problems, said Saint John family physician Mike Simon.

According to the new guidelines, if a person wants to keep health risks low, they should limit their consumption to two drinks a week or less.

“You don’t want to nickel and dime that,” Simon said. One drink is one beer or 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of spirits.

Simon thinks the new guidelines could make his job a little easier by convincing heavy drinkers to cut back and helping people stay healthy for longer.

“At least now they will be aware,” he said, and people can compare their personal consumption with the recommendations.

FRIEND | What do New Brunswickers think of the new alcohol guidelines?

Mixed reactions as people put their drinking habits on a scale

People in Fredericton are debating whether to change their habits after new low-risk drinking guidelines from the Canadian Center on Substance Use and Addiction.

“It will be good information for some people who have concerns about certain diseases,” said Lloyd Chambers, president of Craft Distillers of New Brunswick and owner of Black Galley Distilling in Hanwell.

“But I think for the most part people will read it and move on with their life choices.

“It’s good for everyone to educate themselves and make their own choices. Anyone can drink whatever they want, right? In moderation.”

Chambers said the new guidelines won’t change anything for him.

A man standing in front of a board on the wall and shelves with bottles on them.
Lloyd Chambers, president of Craft Alcohol Producers of New Brunswick and owner of Black Galley Distilling in Hanwell, said the new guidelines won’t change anything for him. (Aniekan Etuhube/CBC)

He said he usually has “a few” drinks a week and “a little more” in the summer or when attending tasting events.

He hopes the new guidelines will not be used to persuade the government to impose stricter rules on his industry.

It is already “tightly” regulated, he said.

“The last thing we need is more restrictions.”

Graystone’s taproom manager Chase Cernivz expects warning labels on alcoholic beverages to be inevitable.

“It’s the same thing that happened with cigarettes,” he said, adding that the negative health effects of alcohol have been known “for a long time.”

A man filling a glass of beer from a tap on the wall
Chase Cernivz, Graystone’s taproom manager, expects that warning labels on alcoholic beverages are inevitable. (Aniekan Etuhube/CBC)

However, Cernivz does not expect the new guidelines to have much of an effect on business. And he knows he has no plans to change his consumption of five to 10 drinks a week.

“It’s an individual decision,” he said.

Outside an NB Liquor store, Simon Gaudreau expressed similar sentiments.

“You can’t eat meat anymore, you can’t smoke, so we’re just gonna stand there and breathe? You gotta do something, man. You only live once.”

And he would rather not see the warning labels on the bottles.

“Especially when you’re buying a good Scotch whisky. Marketing is important. It looks neat. If they put a broken stomach or something on it, it’s going to be disgusting.”

‘It should be there’

Dr. Simon, on the other hand, thinks warning labels are a good idea.

“I think people should be aware of all the dangers of what they are taking or ingesting.

“So if we have clear evidence that we do that alcohol can cause these medical effects, yes, it should be there.”

Many people don’t know that alcohol is a toxic substance, he said.

“That’s why it causes cancer,” he said, from your mouth to your intestines.

“That’s why it affects your blood vessels. That’s why it can predispose you to a stroke,” and it’s also known to cause heart disease and brain damage, he said.

“It affects learning. It affects memory problems. It can cause dementia. Young people: school performance.”

A man wearing a dark collared shirt.
Dr. Mike Simon, a family doctor in Saint John, said he has helped many people quit drinking. (CBC)

The more you drink and the longer you drink, the more likely you are to get these diseases and have a shorter or compromised life, Simon said.

But it affects everyone differently, he said, depending on things like body mass and how effectively their liver is working.

And Simon has no illusions that everyone will stop drinking altogether.

“Moderation. That’s what we’re going for here,” he said.

That is for most people, at least.

Ask for help when needed

Simon also sees patients who are unable to drink in moderation and come to him for help to quit smoking.

Sometimes they come on their own, he said, because they have an uncontrollable urge to drink, or have experienced an alcohol-related crisis at home or at work.

Other times they come with friends or family who notice that there is a problem and that things are going downhill.

After a frank discussion, he said, they work together on a plan to address it.

The patient has to be fully on board, Simon said, because sneaking off for a drink or a “weekend” just doesn’t work.

It’s a gradual process, Simon said, that includes counseling and possibly medication.

Medical help is essential, he said, if a person has been drinking too much for a long time and experiences acute withdrawal when they stop.

A condition known as DT tremensor delirium includes agitation, aggressiveness, confusion, tremors, sweating, nausea, vomiting and delusions.

“You can survive and you can do well”

Another key to success, according to Simon, is a good support network.

That could be family and friends, but it could also be a group like AA, which he described as “a fantastic organization that has done wonders”.

“I have a great appreciation for the work they do with sponsorships, with regular meetings, numerous meetings, different parts of the city.”

Simon said he likes to see people succeed in quitting and some of the damage caused by alcohol can be reversed.

“Their head becomes clear and suddenly, they have a life.”

“They can’t run a marathon, but you can survive and you can do well.”

He said many patients have come back years later to thank him.

Simon also has patients in his practice who are unable or unwilling to stop drinking.

He deals with them in their other matters as best he can.

“Alcohol will eventually get to them. It’s just a very strong toxin. Too much abuse will cause something to fail, whether it’s a heart attack or liver cancer. I mean I’ve seen it all too often.”

And he applies constant encouragement.

“You never know that one time you hit that sweet spot and they’re receptive to making a change. That one time you find someone is really, really rewarding.”




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