Canadian county uses seized drug money to fund alcohol abuse awareness

The Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service want to raise awareness about the consequences of alcohol abuse, and they’ll be using funding that originally came from drug seizures and the sale of homes used for criminal activities.

The campaign, titled “Was it Worth It?” focuses primarily on the social consequences of drinking. Police are often summoned to deal with alcohol-related incidents including domestic violence and sexual assault cases. Videos and posters are being produced and distributed in the hopes that awareness will reduce excessive drinking.

Shocking materials provoke visceral response

The campaign doesn’t pull its punches. The unglamorous and often tragic consequences of alcohol fueled behavior are highlighted through hard-hitting videos and posters that make it abundantly clear that the answer to “Was it worth it?” will be a decided “No.”

Police Chief Terry Armstrong says that some may find the materials “a little too powerful”, but says they communicate a message that’s vitally important to get across. The county is home to a large number of First Nation people, and owing to historic issues, there is a particularly high rate of alcohol abuse and addiction as well as violence and suicides.

The Police are hoping that their campaign will make people think seriously about alcohol abuse and addiction and that the youth will be deterred from adopting alcohol as a “coping mechanism” that just gets them into even worse circumstances.

Alcohol addicts offered help

Apart from creating awareness, the campaign is also striving to reach out to those who are already addicted to alcohol, directing those who need help to services that can offer the necessary support and advice. In addition, an upcoming app will help people to find alcohol-free activities in their neighborhoods – a useful service that will benefit social drinkers who want to quit as well as recovering alcoholics in search of alcohol-free diversions.

Proceeds of crime ploughed back into helping solve the problems crime creates

The “Was it Worth it?” campaign is only one of the initiatives funded by the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services’  Project Nexus which strives to use the proceeds of crime confiscated by police to address social issues that affect crime-rates and communities. “Was it Worth it?” will act as the educational part of project Nexus. Its initial phase consisted of intercepting drugs and alcohol sent through the post. It is illegal to send alcohol via the Canadian postal system.

Alcohol abuse and addiction: who are the victims?

Alcoholism is a disease that affects mental and physical health and harms families. Alcohol-induced aggression and family problems result in domestic violence. Pregnant mothers who drink heavily give birth to children that will always be affected by the damage inflicted through fetal alcohol syndrome. Sexual assaults may happen when either the victim or perpetrator are under the influence of alcohol, or ‘friendly’ gatherings can turn ugly when alcohol-fueled violence breaks out. Last but not least, driving under the influence can lead to car accidents in which people are maimed, injured or killed.

In short, the list of victims extends beyond the alcoholic into his or her family, and even the broader community. Alcoholism is not only an issue that touches a few people. It has the potential to affect anyone, even if they have never been a drinker themselves. The campaign strives to bring this message across by focusing to the consequences of alcohol-fueled violence on the drinker: broken families, jail terms, criminal records, and unwanted pregnancies are among these.

Does alcohol make everybody violent? Obviously not…

Not everybody becomes violent when under the influence, but if one is naturally relatively aggressive, alcohol can break down the boundaries of restraint. The same goes for risky behaviors such as unprotected sex. Those who would not ordinarily indulge in casual or unprotected sex are more likely to do so once alcohol loosens up inhibitions.

Even if they never become violent under the influence of alcohol, alcoholics pay a high price for their habit. They could experience problems at work, have turbulent home lives and broken relationships even if there is no actual domestic abuse, or they could suffer from health issues brought on by excessive drinking.

Awareness program provides food for thought but could go further

The “Was it worth it” campaign is an excellent initiative, and it is understandable that the gravest consequences are highlighted. When multiple messages are conveyed simultaneously, each one loses some of its impact.  However, the consequences of excessive drinking extend beyond a heightened propensity for irresponsible or criminal behavior.

As a police-force backed initiative, it is clear why the financial and health consequences of alcohol abuse and addiction are only touched on, but it would be nice to see funding from similar sources being directed into other campaigns that would provide a broader focus.

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