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Drinking Their Way to Sobriety

A new program in Vancouver serves booze to acute alcoholics while gradually preparing them for detox.


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By Bryan Le


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The Vancouver-based Managed Alcohol Program serves wine, beer and vodka to the alcoholics it treats, once an hour from 9 am-11 pm. The idea that keeping alcoholics buzzed could help them might sound outrageous, but the new program is geared towards a unique class of acute alcoholics—and participants in the $350-a-month program are weaning their bodies off of heavy alcohol dependency while keeping severe withdrawal at bay. Most of the participants were previously abusing non-beverage alcohols like hand sanitizer, hairspray, Listerine and, especially, rubbing alcohol. "Our worst clients are drinking two or three or four of these [bottles] a day, so we're talking about 120 drinks a day," says program head Dr. Ron Joe. Through regulated, gradually reduced doses of alcohol, he hopes to get his patients to a point where they can safely start to detox. Program participants have had a measure of success so far, staying out of trouble and cutting their daily intake by roughly half, from 30 drinks to 12 a day.

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