Alcohol is a flammable liquid whose principal ingredient is ethanol. It is considered to be a depressant drug because it slows down brain functions.
- Alcohol can be a deadly component in both impaired driving and binge drinking;
- About 77% of youth aged 15 and older reported having consumed alcohol in 2009 (Health Canada).
Alcohol: Beer, Wine, Liquor, Booze, Brewskie, shots
To drink or become intoxicated: drunk, wasted, smashed, plastered
How it works
Alcohol impairs the brain’s activity, which is why when someone is drunk they act differently than when they are sober.
Everyone reacts differently to alcohol. For example, teens usually have a lower tolerance for alcohol than adults and females tend to have lower tolerance levels than men. This is because alcohol dissolves in water and women have less water in their body than men. The weight of the individual also plays a role in their tolerance level; the smaller the person is, the quicker their body will absorb the alcohol (Drinking Facts Q & A) (CAMH).
Alcohol may make someone feel happy and excited while another person may become depressed. Some signs of alcohol intoxication include: lower inhibitions, impaired judgment, flushed skin, slurred speech, slower reflexes, blurred vision and/or blacking out.
Long term effects
Regular consumption may gradually bring about liver damage, brain damage, heart disease and increase one’s risk for certain types of cancer. Chronic heavy use can also result in disruptions of the drinker’s social, family and working life (CAMH).
When too much alcohol is consumed too fast, it acts as a poison and affects the individual’s heart rate, breathing and gag reflexes (Drinking Facts). Alcohol poisoning and severe intoxication may result in seizures, coma, and even death. For more information on binge drinking, visit the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)’s website.
You should call an ambulance if:
- You are unable to wake someone who has passed out from drinking too much;
- They start vomiting in their sleep;
- They start to have seizures;
- They have slow and irregular breathing and heart rate;
- They are bluish, pale and/or have cold skin.
Always stay with the individual. Try to prevent them from choking on their vomit by using the Bacchus Maneuver (a technique used to turn a person’s body to prevent them from stopping to breath and/or choking) to put them in the recovery position (CAMH: Binge Drinking).
Tips on safe drinking
Some of you may be old enough to legally drink. If that’s the case, we encourage you to consider this before having a drink:
- You should never drink on a dare or attempt to see how much you can drink;
- Don’t compete in “chugging contests” or other contests to see who can drink the most;
- Pace your drinking and allow time between drinks;
- Consider alternating non-alcoholic drinks with those containing alcohol (i.e.. drinking plain orange juice, pop or water every other drink);
- Don’t drink on an empty stomach;
- Never drink and drive (CAMH).
When someone is dependent on alcohol, withdrawal symptoms may include tremors, nausea and seizures. In more severe cases, symptoms called “delirium tremors” may result, which include delusions, hallucinations, extreme confusion and racing heart beats. Extreme withdrawal symptoms that go untreated could even result in death (CAMH).
It is illegal to:
- Drink, buy and possess alcohol if you are below the legal drinking age, which is 19 in most provinces and territories, with the exception of Quebec, Manitoba and Alberta where it is 18;
- Buy alcohol for someone who is under the legal drinking age;
- Sell alcohol to someone who is under the legal age (restaurants, bars, stores);
- Drink in a public place without a permit (Drinking Facts #1).
Drinking and driving
According to the Criminal Code, it is illegal to drive any type of motor vehicle with blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 and above. However, each province and territory has different regulations regarding the BAC level and adds penalties to drivers exceeding the maximum level. For more information on your provincial impaired driving laws, visit your provincial/territorial regulations (see the Links section). Also, novice drivers are subjected to a zero tolerance regulation – they cannot have any alcohol in their system. For more information on drinking and driving laws, visit the Department of Justice Criminal Code website.
What you can do
Dealing with alcoholism is never easy. If you think or know that you or someone close to you is suffering from an addiction to alcohol, you should talk about it with your parents, legal guardian, a friend, a teacher, a counsellor, a doctor or any other health care professional that will know how to help you. You can also call Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868, where they can provide anonymous phone counselling.
Provincial and Territorial Traffic Acts
Alberta (S. 89)
British-Colombia: Motor Vehicles Act (S. 90.3 & 215)
Manitoba: Highway Traffic Act (S. 265)
Quebec: Highway Safety Code
Newfoundland & Labrador: Highway Traffic Act (S. 601.9.a & 60.1)
New-Brunswick: Motor Vehicle Act (S. 310.01)
Northwest Territories (& Nunavut): Motor Vehicles Act (S. 116.1)
Nova-Scotia: Motor Vehicle Act (S.279C)
Ontario: Highway Traffic Act (S. 48)
Prince Edward Island: Highway Traffic Act (S. 277.1)
Saskatchewan: Traffic Safety Act (S. 146-147)
Yukon: Motor Vehicles Act (S. 256)