(Message from the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction)
Please join us for a new webinar series focused on alcohol, the National Alcohol Forum: Implications of COVID-19.
The pandemic has had far-reaching impacts on Canadians, including on alcohol use and sales, and on changes to alcohol policy. Recent polling data suggests that around 20% of Canadians have been drinking more during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, many provinces and territories have relaxed alcohol sales and consumption regulations during the pandemic.
In February, this series of webinars will explore evidence-informed alcohol policy and responses relating to alcohol during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Don’t miss this opportunity to engage with a range of experts and learn more about these important alcohol-related issues. Space is limited for these webinars. We encourage you to register early to secure your place.
The Effects of COVID-19 on Alcohol Sales, Consumption and Harms
Are Canadians buying and drinking more alcohol than usual during the pandemic? This webinar will explore alcohol sales, consumption patterns and impacts during the pandemic, drawing on the results of surveys and polls commissioned by CCSA and others.
Dr. Daniel Myran, CIHR Fellow, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
Rebecca Jesseman, Director, Policy, Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction
Please note that this webinar will be presented in English.
COVID-19 and Alcohol Policy
Evidence-informed alcohol policies are crucial tools to minimize the harms associated with alcohol use. This webinar will explore policies for preventing and reducing the negative impacts of alcohol use, focusing on changes made to alcohol policy during the COVID-19 pandemic and their implications for public health.
If we only paid attention to ads, it might seem as though alcohol — a beer or glass of wine, a shot of fiery liquor or sophisticated cocktail — merely served as a way to bring people together and make them happy. Drink responsibly, the ads wink, without ever explaining the toll that frequent or excessive alcohol use exacts, particularly at certain stages in life. Because alcohol doesn’t just get us drunk, impair our judgment, and hurt our liver: it can have many other bad effects on our bodies — including effects on the brain.
In a recent editorial in The BMJ, a trio of scientists pointed out that there are three periods in life when the brain goes through major changes and is particularly vulnerable to the effects of alcohol. Two of those periods are at the beginning and end of life. When pregnant women drink alcohol, it can damage the developing brain of the fetus, leading to physical problems, learning disabilities, and behavioral problems. When people over the age of 65 drink alcohol, it can worsen declines in brain function that happen during aging.
The third period is adolescence. During those years of transition between childhood and adulthood, the brain grows and changes in many important ways that are crucial for that transition to be successful. When teens and young adults drink alcohol, it can interfere with that process of brain development in ways that affect the rest of their lives.
We’re making history this year at the annual FASD Symposium … not only is this the first time we’ve ever hosted the event virtually, but we’ve smashed our previous attendance records for this event. There are now over 300 people registered to join us to dialogue about Managing Challenging Behaviours in Children, Youth and Adults with FASD.
We have delegates from all over Canada and the United States, and a handful of international attendees too. Check out who’s coming.
Caregivers, people with FASD, educators and other professionals who work and volunteer in our communities are already confirmed to attend. You are going to miss out!
What to Expect from the Symposium The deadline to register ($125 CAD per person) is on Friday, January 15th. After this date we can no longer accept any other registrations. We are already very close to maximum capacity for this event. Foil FOMO by registering today!
Beginning the new year with a resolution to abstain from alcohol use for a month is a growing health trend known as Dry January.
Many studies have shown that even short-term abstinence from alcohol can improve health.
Dry January can be an excellent time to reevaluate your relationship with alcohol and make healthy changes that last beyond the first 30 days of the year.
Dry January — kicking off the new year by cutting out alcohol for an entire month — is a health trend more people are trying each year.
Although relatively novel, Dry January is generally attributed to starting in the UK around 2014 as a way to help individuals stop drinking.
And it’s catching on in the U.S. as well.
“Dry January gives people the opportunity to see what their lives would be like without the alcohol. Often people get into routines and patterns and they just self-perpetuate and you really need to break it and you realize you feel better,” Bruce Goldman, LCSW, director of the Zucker Hillside Hospital Addiction Services in Glen Oaks, New York, told Healthline.
However, making your Dry January a successful one may not be as easy as it seems.
Having a plan in place can not only help you reach your goal more easily, but enjoy the experience along the way as well.
So, if you’re one of the many people who’ll be starting off 2020 with a resolution to drink less, these 8 tips can help make your Dry January a healthy and happy one.
This one may feel like a bit of a no-brainer, but it’s really important.
Not only should you have realistic expectations for yourself, but you should also get your friends and family involved.
Making goals can also mean writing them down or posting them somewhere as a physical reminder of your intentions.
“It’s also important to publicly declare your goals, to have others — it doesn’t have to be everyone — be aware of what you’re doing. I think the commitment out loud is important. It increases one’s likelihood of following through,” said Goldman.
By making your goals public to friends and family you also open up a channel of communication and support from them that’s invaluable.
“We’re social animals. We are primates and social interaction is probably one of the most powerful reinforcers that we have,” said George Koob, PhD, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). “It doesn’t mean you have to go to Alcoholics Anonymous… you can find that kind of social affirmation in many different ways.”
Use the people closest to you as a support network to help keep you on track. You may even encourage them to take on Dry January with you.
Whether it’s wanting a nice glass of wine on a Friday after work or wishing for a cold beer at a baseball game, many people have particular times, locations, or situations that they associate with drinking.
These are known as triggers. To cut down on drinking, it’s important for everyone to first understand what their triggers are and then avoid them.
But don’t psych yourself out either. Stopping drinking doesn’t mean you can’t ever go to another baseball game or brunch with your friends.
“People feel like ‘Oh, I can never go to a bar again.’ And that’s ridiculous. The idea is that if today you don’t want to have a drink, don’t go to a bar today. You need to think short term and not forever more,” said Goldman.
You’ve made a plan for Dry January, but it may not always be easy to stick to it. Plan for the inevitability of an urge to drink at some point and know which actions you’ll take to overcome it.
“You really need to learn to ride out the urge. I use the analogy of a wave with a peak, but it always breaks. You need to ride out the wave. If you don’t act on it, it will definitely subside,” said Goldman.
There are simple strategies to employ when an urge strikes that can help such as a quick change of scenery. If you’re inside, go outdoors. If you’re with friends, take some alone time.
Small changes in environment can help distract you or take your mind off of drinking long enough to ride out the urge.
“If you’re using alcohol as a coping mechanism or a way of relaxing, maybe try and find some other way of doing that,” said Koob.
At the top of his list: exercise.
Go for a walk, try some relaxing yoga, or join a recreational sports team.
“Exercise is good for everything. If there’s one universal thing that helps everyone it’s exercise,” said Koob.
This is also a great time to reconnect with your other hobbies, interests, and passions. Time (and money) not spent out at bars can instead be used for that ship in a bottle you gave up on, or that thousand piece jigsaw puzzle collecting dust in the closet.
So, you’ve made your resolution to stop drinking. You’ve written it down and told your friends. But, two weeks into January you have a beer. Uh oh, you blew it, right?
No. It’s not the end of the world.
“People tend to be perfectionists,” said Goldman. “It’s OK if you drink. It’s not all or nothing. I think that trips a lot of people up. Ninety-nine percent dry January would be good, too. As would an eighty percent dry January.”
In fact, just cutting back is better than nothing at all. The point to remember is that you need to bounce back.
Dry January means going alcohol-free for the month of January, and that can bring huge, obvious benefits – but the really good stuff is under the surface…
1. What you’ll notice
See your skin get brighter, your wallet fuller, your days busier. Feel your step get bouncier, your mind calmer, your nights sleepier. Most people who do Dry January see a whole host of obvious benefits that make Dry January the perfect start to the New Year.
2. On the inside
A month alcohol-free has a lot of benefits: research published in 2018, conducted by the Royal Free Hospital and published in the British Medical Journal, found that a month off:
Lowers blood pressure
Reduces diabetes risk
Reduces levels of cancer-related proteins in the blood.
3. Long-term change
The real magic happens when Dry January is over. Dry January helps people to drink more healthily year-round. Research conducted by the University of Sussex has found that six months after Dry January more than 70% of people who take on the month with Alcohol Change UK’s support are still drinking more healthily. On top of that, they have boosted levels of wellbeing, and much more besides.
How can it be that just a month off has a long-term impact? Being alcohol-free for 31 days shows us that we don’t need alcohol to have fun, to relax, or to socialise. It helps us learn the skills we need to manage our drinking. That means that for the rest of the year we are better able to make decisions about when we drink and how much, so we can avoid slipping into drinking more than we really want to.
That’s extra good news, because alcohol is linked with more than 60 health conditions, including liver disease, high blood pressure, depression and seven types of cancer. In fact, alcohol is the biggest risk factor for death, ill-health and disability for people aged 15-49 in the UK. Cutting back on alcohol long-term reduces your risk of developing these conditions.
Why do the official Dry January?
People who take on the official Dry January with Alcohol Change UK are twice as likely to have a totally alcohol-free month, and to get amazing long-term benefits. What does it mean to sign up?
Download the free Try Dry app. It’s your booze-free buddy for Dry January and beyond, helping you keep track of your units, calories and money saved and letting you earn badges along the way. Plus you can use it to track your drinking and set personalised goals all year round.
Sign up for free coaching emails. We’ll offer you daily tips, stories and much more to help you get the most out of your Dry January. You can sign up for these via the app, or sign up for just emails here.
We’re taking a short break from our CanFASD webinar series for the month of December but will return in the new year. In the meantime, you can re-watch all of our past webinars on our YouTube channel. Be sure to subscribe to our channel to get regular updates!
Here are a few other series you may be interested in.
Parenting During a Pandemic
Strong Minds Strong Kids ran a webinar with expert panelists Dr. Amanda Zelechoski and Dr. Lindsay Malloy called Guilt, grief, and grace, oh my: Parenting during a Pandemic. This is a great resource for caregivers who are struggling balancing childcare with regular responsibilities during a pandemic.
Perinatal Substance Use
B.C.’s Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health ran a fall webinar series called Learning & Acting Together – Perinatal Substance Use. This four-part series included panel discussions from a number of experts with research, practice, policy, and lived experience.
PHSA Indigenous Health developed a webinar series about Indigenous Cultural Safety in collaboration with an advisory circle of Indigenous and non-Indigenous leaders across Canada.
This learning series addresses a broad range of issues related to how Indigenous people experience and interact with a number of different systems, such healthcare, justice, education, and child-welfare. They provide a space to address the complex experience of Indigenous-specific racism and discrimination while promoting advocacy and empowerment.
There are 12 webinars to choose from, with presentations from a number of different community leaders across Canada.
These webinars feature presentations from leaders from across Canada who discuss issues such as harm reduction, domestic violence, adverse childhood experiences, youth, and more. You can watch all of the recordings on their website.
FASD Learning Series
The Government of Alberta put together a free FASD Learning Series with close to 100 videos available about various topics related to FASD. You can see presentations from a number of experts and community leaders, including some from our very own CanFASD Research Leads.
This Too Shall Pass
This Too Shall Pass is a heartwarming and honest series that tells short stories about the lives of adults with FASD as they adapt to the new challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The series was filmed and created by the staff and residents at Options for Independence, a supported housing initiative in the Yukon for adults with FASD.