▶️ Oregon launches ‘Rethink the Drink’ campaign to help reduce alcohol use


“Rethink the Drink” is a campaign launched by the Oregon Health Authority, aiming to help start conversations about how people can reduce alcohol use.

“It’s not telling people to stop drinking,” said Public Health Division Director for the Oregon Health Authority Rachel Banks. “We’re asking that they pause for a moment, learn what harmful drinking is and think about the way alcohol is showing up in our own lives and in our own communities.”

According to OHA, excessive alcohol use is the third-leading cause of preventable death in Oregon and is responsible for over 2,000 deaths each year.

“We see a ton of it when we are working in the emergency room,” said Clinical Supervisor of Deschutes Outpatients for BestCare Talie Wenick. “Alcohol actually makes up 80% of the substance use in our community and the reason for people going to the hospital, much higher than drugs.”

BestCare in Central Oregon has a variety of services including treatments for substance abuse issues.

Wenick says with Bend having so many breweries, people tend to overdrink and not even know it.

“Bend is not the easiest place to stay sober for sure, we see a much higher level, younger people that are having struggles with alcohol because it is everywhere,” said Wenick.

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Those trying to keep the peace in Bend receive a lot of calls to service that are alcohol related,  mainly assaults and people getting behind the wheel after tipping too many. 

That only increases in the summertime at festivals and large events.

“We have a pretty bad DUI problem in our community and we average I think about 500 DUIs that we make arrests for each year,” said Communications Director for the Bend Police Sheila Miller. “This year, just in the first quarter, so through March 31, we had 175 arrests for DUIs.”

The Bend Police Department has a designated DUI enforcement team, always looking for those impaired behind the wheel and getting them off the road.

“It is an issue here and there really is no excuse.” Miller said. “There’s Uber, there’s taxis, there’s Lyft, there’s friends. I know most people would be happy to pick someone up if it kept them alive for another day.”

The OHA defines excessive drinking as heaving drinking and binge drinking.

Heavy drinking is eight or more drinks per week for women and 15 or more for men.

Binge Drinking is consuming four or more drinks in one occasion for women and five or more for men.

Here is a response from St. Charles Hospital:

Like OHA, St. Charles recognizes the importance of having a community conversation about alcohol use. That’s why for the three-year period 2020-2022, St. Charles chose alcohol misuse prevention as its Community Benefit strategic priority. In the below article (see link), Dr. Jeff Absalon, our chief physician executive, explains that:

“Alcohol misuse is a root cause of many chronic health and societal problems — liver disease, fetal alcohol syndrome, child abuse, domestic violence and the cause of many auto accidents that damage lives. If we can reduce binge drinking, increase identification and interventions for alcoholism, and ensure that the norm for community gatherings that include alcohol is to drink responsibly, then Central Oregon will be healthier and safer.”

Here’s the whole story:

Highlighting our Community Benefit program | St. Charles Health (stcharleshealthcare.org)

You can read the full press release here:

The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) just launched “Rethink the Drink,” an innovative statewide campaign to build healthier communities by calling attention to the harms caused by excessive alcohol drinking. Rethink the Drink asks people living in Oregon to consider the role of alcohol in their own lives and communities. Oregon is the first state in the country to launch a campaign of this scale, which will target adults aged 21 and older.

“Summer is often a busy time for events and occasions that are celebrated with excessive drinking, from festivals to weddings, river outings and BBQs. Our research shows people are ready to talk about drinking and the way alcohol affects our lives,” said Dr. Tom Jeanne, OHA’s Deputy State Health Officer and Deputy State Epidemiologist. “We have heard from many community groups that appreciate we are encouraging people to have healthy conversations about excessive alcohol use.”

People living in Oregon may be drinking excessively and not realize it.

The share of Oregon adults who drink excessively is bigger than most of us realize, more than 1 in 5. Most people in this group are not affected by alcoholism or an alcohol use disorder. However, by drinking excessively, people increase their odds of developing an alcohol use disorder later in life. It’s not just a problem for high school and college kids: people in their 30s and 40s binge drink at close to the same rates as younger people.

OHA uses the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) definition of excessive alcohol use. Excessive drinking includes both heavy drinking and binge drinking:

  • Heavy drinking, which can lead to chronic diseases and other problems over time, is 8 or more drinks per week for women or 15 or more drinks per week for men.
  • Binge drinking is consuming 4 or more drinks on one occasion for women or 5 or more drinks on one occasion for men.

The CDC numbers are different for men and women because their bodies process alcohol differently. However, it’s important to point out that the CDC numbers refer to cisgender males and females. “Cisgender” means that the gender you identify with matches the sex assigned to you at birth. When it comes to gender nonconforming individuals, more research is needed to assess the impact of excessive drinking. It’s also true that for some people, drinking any alcohol is too much. And no matter who you are, drinking less is better for your health than drinking more.

“We need a new way to think about alcohol,” said Rachael Banks, MPA, OHA’s Public Health Director. “Many cross the line into drinking too much, partly because society makes it so easy. We aren’t telling people to stop drinking; we are asking that they pause for a moment, learn about how much drinking is harmful, and think about the way alcohol is prevalent in their lives and communities.”

During the pandemic, the policy environment changed across the nation and in Oregon to allow for cocktails to go and expanded home delivery of alcohol. “With those changes to Oregon law, the education environment and tools available must evolve too,” adds Dr. Reginald Richardson, Executive Director for the Oregon Alcohol and Drug Policy Commission. “That’s why this effort to start a new conversation about excessive alcohol use is so crucial.”

Data reveal the unjust harms of excessive drinking

National data show that alcohol consumption increased during the pandemic as people coped with the stress and changes to daily life caused by the virus. This was exacerbated as alcohol became more easily available due to policy changes. Certain populations experience more unjust stressors and disadvantages due to racism and discrimination, which has led to higher rates of alcohol-related harms. These include Black and Indigenous communities, as well as people with lower incomes and less education.

Excessive drinking causes health harms that include increased risks for cancer, liver failure, heart disease and depression. Beyond the health harms to the individual, excessive drinking affects the entire community, costing Oregon $4.8 billion per year from lost earnings for workers and revenue for businesses, health care expenses, criminal justice costs, and car crashes. That’s $1,100 for every person in Oregon, according to a report by ECONorthwest.  

“We recognize that the alcohol industry provides thousands of jobs for Oregonians and that we make some of the world’s finest beers, wines and spirits,” added Dr. Jeanne. “At the same time, excessive drinking carries heavy costs for all of us, whether we drink or not. It affects everyone from children and families to businesses and taxpayers. This effort encourages people to consider whether we could be handling alcohol use in different ways than we are now.”

Rethink the Drink advances Healthier Together Oregon (HTO), the 2020–2024 State Health Improvement Plan (SHIP). HTO’s Behavioral Health priority strategies specific to alcohol and substance use can be found in Oregon’s Strategic Plan for Substance Use Services as developed by Alcohol and Drug Policy Commission.

Elements of the Rethink the Drink campaign include:

  • Website: rethinkthedrink.com
  • Statewide TV, radio, digital and print advertisements
  • Facebook and Instagram pages
  • Information for county health departments, community-based organizations, and Tribes to localize the campaign for their communities

Extensive research and statewide focus groups by OHA and DHM Research, plus robust involvement by community partners throughout the state, informed the development of this campaign.

Note: If you or someone you care about is suffering from alcohol dependence or an alcohol use disorder, free confidential resources and support are available online or by calling or 1-800-923-435.

About Rethink the Drink

Rethink the Drink is an initiative of the Oregon Health Authority’s Public Health Division with a goal to build healthier communities by decreasing excessive drinking and the harm it causes to individuals, families and communities. Recognizing the value of Oregon’s beer, wine and alcohol producers and businesses to the state’s economy, culture and identity, Rethink the Drink is not asking people not to drink. While Oregonians of all education and income levels drink excessively, certain populations experience higher rates of alcohol-related diseases. These include Black and Indigenous communities, as well as people with lower incomes and less education.

About the Oregon Health Authority Public Health Division

The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) is a state government agency with a single overarching strategic goal: eliminate health inequities in Oregon by 2030. The mission of OHA’s Public Health Division is to promote health and prevent the leading causes of death, disease and injury in our state. We do this by creating environments, policies and systems that support healthy communities and wellness for everyone, including access to healthy food, physical activity, immunizations, safe water and clean air. For more information, please visit the Public Health Division website.

About the Alcohol and Drug Policy Commission

The Alcohol and Drug Policy Commission (ADPC) is an independent state agency created by the Oregon Legislature to improve the effectiveness of substance use services for all Oregonians. In 2018, the Legislature directed ADPC to develop a statewide, comprehensive strategic plan for substance use services, which ADPC completed in 2020. The strategic plan is called Oregon’s Strategic Plan for Substance Use Services. For more information, please visit https://www.oregon.gov/adpc/pages/index.aspx.


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