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Alcohol

Alcohol is a legal (though regulated) substance in Canada. It is a nervous system depressant and can be consumed in moderation with limited risks. Consuming alcohol does affect the body, presenting changes to concentration, speech, balance and coordination, judgement and senses (such as vision).

While alcohol consumption is generally accepted in Canada, it becomes a problem when it is consumed in excess regularly and begins to interfere with your day-to-day function. In some cases where large quantities of alcohol are consumed regularly, it can be dangerous to suddenly stop on your own.

For informaton on Canada's low-risk drinking guidelines, click here.

Signs of alcohol addiction include:

  • Consumption of alcohol during periods where you are expected to carry a certain responsibility (such as at work, while driving, while caring for children)
  • Drinking alcohol for the purpose of becoming intoxicated
  • Requiring alcohol to relax or feel better
  • Blacking out due to excess alcohol consumption
  • Regularly drinking more than you intend to
  • Drinking despite recognizing health/relationship problems caused by alcohol
  • Developing a high-tolerance for alcohol

Effects of alcohol consumption

Short term effects of excess alcohol consumption include:

  • Dizziness
  • Slurred speech
  • Memory loss
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Impaired judgement
  • Impaired senses
  • Depression, aggression, euphoria and/or lack on inhibitions

Long term effects of excess alcohol consumption include[1]:

  • Brain damage
  • Liver and organ damage
  • Ulcers
  • Heart-disease
  • Death

Addiction

There are three main stages to becoming alcohol dependent[2]:

No Major Harm – There are no negative impacts to the person’s work or social life. Their health is not at risk in any significant way.

Starting to develop health problems and problems with work/social life/the law – Some people will cut back or quit drinking on their own when they notice these problems.

Person cannot stop – Despite recognizing the harm, the person continues to drink. They may tremble when sober, have decreased appetite and mood swings or depression.

Quick facts:

  • Consuming moderate/acceptable levels of alcohol can cause problems when combined with certain medications
  • Lowered awareness and loss of coordination when intoxicated may put you at risk of being harmed by others[3]
  • A 2005 survey found that 62 per cent of Ontario students between grade 7 and 12 have consumed alcohol within the past year. In the past month, 25 per cent of male students and 20 per cent of female students reported binge-drinking (five or more drinks in an evening).[4]
  • According to madd Canada, in 2009, 41.7 per cent of all vehicle collision deaths were alcohol related.
  • There is no known safe amount of alcohol you can consume while pregnant or breastfeeding.

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[1] Alcohol abuse. Health Canadians – Government of Canada. http://healthycanadians.gc.ca/health-sante/addiction/alcohol-alcool-eng.php

[2] Drugs: Know the Facts, Cut Your Risks (Addiction Prevention Centre, 2008) 38-39.

[3] Ibid. 33.