That opioids overdoses caused an estimated 2,000 deaths in Canada last year is front-page news, and rightfully so. The spike in mortality is troubling.
But alcohol kills more than 5,000 people annually, year in and year out. (And, of course, there’s tobacco, which kills 37,000 Canadians a year, but at least we discuss and act upon the health impacts of smoking.)
Alcohol is too often portrayed as good, harmless fun.
Yet a new report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information shows that 77,000 hospitalizations in Canada last year were entirely caused by alcohol – more than heart attacks. And that doesn’t include people treated in the ER for alcohol-related conditions and then released.
Alcohol kills and maims in a perversely diverse number of ways.
There are the acute problems such as alcohol poisoning (read: overdose), withdrawal and delirium. There are the long-term impacts such as cirrhosis of the liver, pancreatitis, an increased risk of developing several cancers and damage to the fetus such as fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and exacerbation of mental illness. All told, alcohol negatively affects more than 200 health conditions.