Courtenay council

Alcohol consumption trending upwards in Comox Valley

A global study indicates one in 10 deaths are linked to alcohol consumption among those 15-49 years old.

In the Comox Valley, alcohol consumption is trending upwards — slightly more than the Island average, says Medical Health Officer Charmaine Enns, who addressed Courtenay council Monday as a member of the Comox Valley Community Drug Strategy Committee.

“Alcohol is a substance that we have normalized so much in our everyday living that we’ve kind of lost perspective, or we’re not paying attention to what’s actually happening in regards to alcohol,” she said.

In a study of North Island youth 12-19 years, 52 per cent say they have used alcohol. Of that, 24 per cent say they started drinking at 12 or under, and 40 per cent have engaged in heavy drinking.

“In North Vancouver Island, youth are starting earlier and drinking more than the provincial average,” Enns said.

Hazardous drinking among women is defined as more than four drinks in a sitting at least once a month. According to a report from the Provincial Health Officer, heavy drinking in women of reproductive age (15-44) is increasing. The highest rate is among women 20-44 years, with the most substantial increase in the 30- to 34-year bracket.

In 2010, after government changed the legal drinking limit from 0.08 to 0.05, the number of fatal car crashes attributed to alcohol decreased on the Island.

“Policy makes a difference,” Enns said, noting municipalities can help by limiting alcohol availability and advertising, among other measures.

•Judith Conway appealed to council to allow her display — which sits on her back fence in Comox in memory of her son Matthew — to be erected at the Courtenay Airpark to bring awareness to the issue of overdose deaths. In 2017, she lost Matthew to a fentanyl overdose.

“After Matthew’s death, not only did I have to endure the pain of losing a child, but also experience the stigma, silence and shame of an overdose death,” she said in a presentation. “I believe it is a cross for me to bear, and a lesson of what my son and so many experience while suffering from substance use. So I decided to take action, and not allow my son to die in vain.”

Conway created the 120-foot display in time for International Overdose Awareness Day last summer. Realizing a need to reach as many places as possible, she made a 70-foot replica of the original. Each piece of yarn represents someone’s child who died in 2017 of overdose in Canada. The flags are mostly names of people who died in the Valley.

“It is a visible memorial of the overdose crisis happening in Canada. The hope is to tour with it…We are in a crisis. Community support is needed to continue increasing awareness to break down the stigma that is a silent killer.”

•The Comox Valley Canoe Racing Club is in a space crunch at the Airpark, where they share a compound with the Rowing Club.

“We have a very quickly growing club,” member Carl Tessmann told council. He noted the Kelowna Paddling Club experienced significant growth when it secured a bigger facility.

The club offers competitive and recreational outrigger canoe paddling, and standup paddleboarding. Men’s, women’s and mixed teams practice several times a week. In May, the club hosts the CV Iron Race.

•Council approved a resolution from Mayor Bob Wells, on behalf of the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities, to request the Province to provide a portion of the B.C. Liquor Tax to communities for policing costs. Wells notes that the availability of alcohol, under provincial jurisdiction, can have significant implications on policing costs.

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