Selling Alcohol in Grocery Stores: Hidden Risks and Alternative Options

While this blog is from Ontario, many of the points are relevant here in BC, now that alcohol sales will soon be permitted in select grocery stores.


alcohol-grocery2By Dr. Norman Giesbrecht, Senior Scientist Emeritus, Public Health and Regulatory Policy Section

In the last few days we have heard about plans to permit the sale of beer and wine in grocery stores in Ontario. For the most part, media reports have made no reference to potential health and safety risks associated with the proposed changes. You would have thought that the reporters were talking about changing the distribution of milk or orange juice in Ontario. What about the possible increase in alcohol-related incidents or negative impact on vulnerable populations — is that not relevant to the discussion?

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Evidence-based planning of alcohol and other drug treatment services in BC: A collaborative effort between CARBC and the Ministry of Health

As researchers, our ultimate goal is to provide evidence-based information that will go on to inform policy and practice. Recently, we were lucky enough to have the opportunity to do just that.

For 18 months, the Centre for Addictions Research of BC (CARBC) has been collaborating on a project with the BC Ministry of Health. The Ministry’s initiative was to create 500 substance-use treatment spaces throughout the province; however, they wanted to know where these spaces would be best utilized. Would it be in the more Northern communities where substance-use treatment is scarcer? Or would it be in more busy urban areas where demand for these services is higher? These were some questions that a small team here at CARBC, alongside some key individuals within the Ministry, sought to answer.

Read the rest of this post on our new blog site.


Chantele Joordens and Scott Macdonald, Centre for Addictions Research of BC

Joanne MacMillan, Ministry of Health

Important notice – Our blog is moving!

Hello Matters of Substance subscribers,

You may have noticed our last couple posts have directed you to a new blog! We are in the process of overhauling our entire website, including the Matters of Substance blog. We’re just beginning to settle into our new home as part of the University of Victoria’s Online Academic Community. Our new blog address is

This also means we are switching over to a new email subscription system via Google Feedburner. If you are a current email subscriber to our blog, you will be receiving an email asking you to activate your subscription to the new system. We hope that you’ll re-confirm your subscription and continue to receive updates from us.

Thanks for taking the time to follow our blog. We are currently in the middle of our Treatment Systems series, and have a series on mental health and substance use planned for the near future.

Sincerely, the CARBC team

Drinking, Disease and Distance: Access and use of primary health care services for treatment of alcohol-attributed diseases in rural BC

Since the turn of the century, there has been a sharp decrease in the proportion of the population that resides in rural and remote British Columbia (BC) communities. In 2011, 86% of British Columbians (3,790,694) lived in urban areas, whereas only 14% of the population, or 609,363 persons, resided in rural communities. Although a much smaller proportion of the population lives in rural areas, these communities have disproportionately higher rates of alcohol consumption and alcohol-related hospitalizations than urban areas of BC, such as Vancouver and Richmond. These higher rates of alcohol-related harms, when combined with poor access to health care, can result in greater disease severity and increased rates of alcohol-related deaths. Although these challenges have existed for many decades, we still have an incomplete understanding of the barriers to obtaining addictions treatment services, which is important information that could be used to inform health care policy and resource allocation decisions throughout the province.

Read the rest of this post on our new site.


Author: Amanda K Slaunwhite, Collaborating Scientist, Centre for Addictions Research of BC; Post-Doctoral Fellow,  University of New Brunswick.

Systems planning – like grocery shopping

When I entered the substance-use field as an outpatient counsellor many years ago, I thought my biggest challenge was to concentrate on what the client was trying to communicate to me as being their main issue. It turns out I was only partially correct in this assumption. In actuality, the biggest challenge was to make some sense of how funding and resource decisions were being made to support the development or growth of different services for the people we serve at the larger systems level…

Read the rest of this post on our new site.

A photo of Sherry Mumford

Author: Sherry Mumford, Director, Substance Use services, Mental Health and Substance Use program, Fraser Health

Film-based Classroom Resource Lets Teens Open Up About Cannabis, Choices and Consequences

“The film encourages students to come to their own conclusions about marijuana use through showing a variety of situations rather than just ‘telling them how to think.”—Teacher

….the video stimulates conversation because it is so powerful. So in all honesty the video did most of the work and I just kept the conversation going, changing its direction when needed and appropriate and prompting where I could.”—Substance use counselor

Teens need opportunities to talk openly and honestly about cannabis (marijuana). This is the thinking behind a new, award-winning classroom resource called CYCLES, developed by researchers at the UBC School of Nursing and based on studies involving youth in three BC communities.

The Cycles logo

Cycles is an educational resource to help engage young people in productive discussions around cannabis use.

The goal of CYCLES is to help engage young people in productive discussions involving decision-making and cannabis use. The resource features a locally produced short film (28 minutes) about two fictional high school students and their relationships with cannabis. There is also a facilitator’s guide containing lesson plans, teaching tips, student handouts, and quick facts about cannabis use. Together the classroom materials support self-reflection and dialogue about factors that can influence a teen’s choices to use—or not use—cannabis or any other drug.

Facilitators of the 50-minute module (or longer if a deeper discussion is desired) do not need to be drug experts. Their role is simply to guide a thoughtful class discussion, whether students are experienced with cannabis and its effects or not.

“Meaningful dialogue with young people about marijuana use can translate into informed decision-making,” say the resource’s creators. In other words, talking things out may make frequent users consider cutting down on how often they toke up, and it may delay or deter other students from trying cannabis in the first place.

A recent survey of BC students supports the call for open, non-judgmental conversations in schools about cannabis and other drugs. Teens who are able to discuss such issues with parents, teachers and other adults are more likely to make healthier decisions. Rates of substance use among students have been declining for a decade, says McCreary Centre Society’s 2013 Adolescent Health Survey. The vast majority of students in Grades 7 through 12 said they had never tried cannabis (74%), and many of those with experience reported waiting until they were at least 15 before first experimenting with the drug. Eight percent of students reported using cannabis on the weekend before the survey was taken, down from 12% in 2008.

“Judging young people for their choices regarding marijuana is not helpful,” reads a CYCLES footnote. “Rather, engaging in meaningful discussion contributes to healthy dialogue.”

For more information, check out the CYCLES resource on the CARBC website. While the CYCLES guide is currently published in English only, the video is available with French subtitles. Student worksheets will soon be available in French. A script of the video is also available.

Bodner Nicole-

Author: Nicole Bodner, Centre for Addictions Research of BC

**Please note that the material presented here does not necessarily imply endorsement or agreement by individuals at the Centre for Addictions Research of BC.