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January 31, 2017
Young women and the dangers of binge drinking
The following is an abridged version of a terrific talk given by alum Ann DOWSETT Johnston’71 when she presented in our Conversations with Parents Speaker Series.

It was wonderful to see my book Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol in bookstores everywhere (and have the end game be the announcement of Health Canada’s Low Risk Drinking Guidelines.) The bad news? I told the whole world I had a drinking problem. But I’m glad I did.

As I did press for my book, I was often asked why I wrote it. The answer was, “for your daughters.” Because—Donald Trump notwithstanding—alcohol is the one thing going sideways for this generation of smart, talented young women.

The scary facts

In Canada, close to 80 per cent of those 15 and over drink. Based on very accurate alcohol sales data, we know that the average Canadian, 15 and over, consumes 470 standard drinks per year.
Since 2003, for all women in Canada ages 12 and over, there has been a steady and statistically significant increasing trend in heavy drinking.

In my book I concluded that alcohol has become the modern women’s steroid. Alcohol is the way many women self-medicate. And alcohol is being marketed to us as a women’s drink.

What you can do

No matter what age your daughter may be, talk to her about drinking. Have that difficult chat and those awkward conversations. Break the silence.

Here are four messages to focus on:

1. Educate her on the “pinking” of the alcohol market. Let her know she, as a woman, is the target—just as girls and young women before her were targetted by the tobacco industry.
2. Let her know that underage drinking is not a harmless rite of passage.
3. Educate her on her vulnerabilities, as a girl or young woman, physiologically and otherwise.
4. How much parents drink influences their children. Never drink more than 10 drinks a week, and never more than three on any one occasion.

We all want our children to reach their full, magnificent potential. I encourage you to speak to your daughters frequently and honestly on this critical subject.

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