A homeless shelter for alcoholics  in Ottawa is practicing an unusual treatment for problem drinkers.  On the hour over a daily period of 12 hours they give each alcoholic a generous glass of wine.  This amounts to 72 ounces or about three bottles of wine a day.

The rationale for this unique treatment  (run by medical personnel) is that it takes the worst alchoholics off the streets, their lives calm down, and daily police pickups, ambulance rides and emergency room visits are replaced with harm reduction and far better care.  “The alternative”said one caregiver ” “is drinking themselves to death”.

By giving them five ounces of wine an hour, the recipients no longer resort to drinking such harmful substances as paint thinner, mouth wash or aftershave. Once the drinking is stabilized, they then start to work on other aspects of their lives.

It also emerges that only one out of 55 gives up drinking on their own.

The people the Ottawa Centre deals with are those who have been on the streets drinking to unconsciousness for an average of 35 years.

A medical group in Montreal would like to see the “wet” program in Ottawa established in our city.  Montreal has between 3,000 and 5,000 homeless people with each one costing the taxpayers $55,000 for healh care etc.

However, not everyone agrees with the Ottawa program.  Cyril Morgan, director of the Welcome Hall Mission, says he’s “not convinced it’s the way to go.”

“It doesn’t wean them off, it pacifies them for the time they’re in the program.  Once you take them out of that environment, then what?”

Would you like to see the Ottawa “wet” program in Montreal?

Should they give wine to alcoholics?

What do you think?

Research on the program has shown that health and hygiene improved and some participants even stopped  drinking entirely.  (I’m from Missouri on that one.)

It is estimated that 20 per cent of alcoholics require some kind of intervention to stop drinking.  The Ottawa “wet” program targets four per cent of that group.


  1. 1

    This is too broad a topic for one lonely reply, Neil, but I’ll give it a go.

    Alcoholism is an auto-immune condition, and it’s different for each individual, so NO one solution is going to do any good for all.

    Having said that, the way they are handling it now is actually not bad. The “wet” program merely helps keep the physical body from withdrawal reaction, which can kill. It’s not an answer; it’s only a pause until an answer can be found. And they are correct with everything they say about it.

    Cyril Morgan’s problem is that he sees this as a moral issue. It has nothing to do with morals. He needs to do some on-the-street face-to-face reasearch before he goes making decisions for other people.

    A lot of alcoholics do not want to stop drinking — what they want is to be able to drink and do other things at the same time. This “wet” program can get them to the point where they can stop worrying about where their next drink is coming from, and focus on other things. Once they get used to the other things they like to do, then it’s time for counselling sessions that will hopefully edge them into a decision to quit drinking and focus on the rest of their lives without alcohol.

    A lot of them will make it. Some won’t. You can’t rescue everyone.

  2. 2
    Neil McKenty Says:

    Lady Janus,

    I should have thought AA had the best record on using a “dry” program to deal with problem drinkers.

  3. 3

    No, AA can only “help” those who want to quit drinking and are able to do so without killing themselves. It can’t do anything for those who want to keep drinking…and most serious drinkers want to keep drinking. They may say they want to quit, but their body will tell them that it needs the alcohol in order to function; and when they’ve gotten to that stage of addiction, quitting cold turkey (as AA demands) is more dangerous than going for what is called “functional drinking” — keeping just enough alcohol in the system to keep from throwing the body into shock — which is what this “wet” program is about.

    And AA does not actually help with addiction, either — it simply substitutes one addiction for another: meetings instead of alcohol. Anyone who realizes he wants to stop the whole addiction process will find a way to quit without using AA.

  4. 4
    Peggy MacTaggart Says:

    Well, let me just say that I have been sober for over 39 years and if anyone had given me wine, I would probably be dead today. When are the so called ‘normal’ people going to accept that alcoholism is an illness.

  5. 5
    Peggy MacTaggart Says:

    I remember one alcoholic couselor (who was not an alcoholic) suggested to one of his clients to tape a paper on the wall and whenever he had a drink, mark it on the paper so his wife and family could regain trust in him. I couldn’t believe my ears when the counsellor told me this. As if an active alcoholic would do this. Needless to say, the client told me he marked down about every 10th drink he had!!

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