The longer you drink it, the more you see sparkling light at the edge of your eyes. That’s the first step in going blind from guzzling cheap illicit booze, the doctor tells him.
Morgan, a First Nations man from a reserve near Terrace, B.C., hopes to reduce the harmful impact of addicts ingesting cheap, illicit alcohol by landing funding for a peer-run drinker’s lounge.
The envisioned lounge would offer free legal alcohol in the Downtown Eastside.
Morgan and about 40 members of the Eastside Illicit Drinkers Group for Education see this as the next step in Vancouver’s harm reduction movement, similar to a supervised injection site, for illicit drinkers who typically ingest Listerine, hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol.
Illicit drinkers can squeeze about 30 standard drinks from a 250 ml bottle of 95 per cent rubbing alcohol by diluting servings with water, experts say, for the cost of about $3.
Morgan says addicts will turn over their welfare cheques to illicit booze brokers, adding he sees “dealers” in the Downtown Eastside carrying large vats of hand sanitizer stolen from hospitals.
He says the damage done is easy to see in the Downtown Eastside and in cities in northern B.C. He knows a number of peers who have died from alcohol poisoning, freezing to death outside, or “getting shanked” in an argument stemming from the fast and powerful buzz that comes from drinking illicit booze.
“I myself, am one of the ones that suffers,” Morgan said Tuesday. “Each one of us wakes up with those demons staring at us in our face, and that’s why we drink it.”
Started in July, Eastside Illicit Drinkers Group for Education has landed $52,000 in a research grant, with aims to gather clinical evidence across B.C. on the benefits of alcohol maintenance programs.
Within the next year, they hope to produce research in order to help land a partner in the health-care sector to fund a Downtown Eastside drinker’s lounge stocked with vodka, sherry and high-alcohol beer.
Advocates say at a cost of about $350 per month per drinker, alcohol maintenance programs can reduce policing costs and medical fees associated with frequent emergency room visits for illicit booze drinkers.
Morgan says there would be counselling, health and detox referral services provided at the drinker’s lounge, and the group would maintain a database to monitor outcomes.
“It would be members only because once word gets out it is free alcohol, everyone that just wants a free drink would show up,” he said.