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Alcohol Use, Misuse & Abuse

What is alcohol?

Alcohol is a drug that slows down parts of your brain. Drinking alcohol can make you feel more relaxed. It can also make it harder to think clearly, make good decisions and do various tasks.

Alcohol is made by fermenting (and sometimes distilling) fruits, vegetables or grains. Alcohol itself is a clear liquid. The colour in beer, spritzers, wine and other alcoholic drinks comes from other ingredients and from the process of fermentation.


How alcohol works

Alcohol is a depressant, it slows the nervous system. Alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream through the stomach and small intestine and spreads quickly throughout the body. The amount of pure alcohol in your bloodstream is your blood alcohol content (BAC).

How does alcohol make you feel?

Alcohol may slow your reflexes, movement and thinking. For a short time, alcohol can make you feel:

•more calm and relaxed
•more talkative
•less shy
•warm (skin may be flushed)
•less co-ordinated.

Alcohol can make some people aggressive. For others, drinking can depress them or make them more depressed. When people are intoxicated (drunk), they may:

•have blackouts (lose their memory)
•slur their speech or have trouble walking
•feel sleepy or lose consciousness
•be more likely to have falls and other accidents
•get alcohol poisoning or die
•have slower reflexes and thinking
•take more risks and make bad decisions.

The misuse & abuse of alcohol can cause:

•brain and nerve damage
•high blood pressure and strokes
•liver disease
•damage to the fetus, for pregnant women
•diseases of the stomach, digestive system and pancreas
•breast cancer and throat cancer
•low sex hormone levels
•alcohol dependence

Canadian statistics about alcohol:

79% of people in Alberta over the age of 15 drink to some extent.

83% of gr. 12 Ontario students admit to using alcohol

49% of Ontario gr. 12 students admit to binge drinking

Among Ontario grade 11 drinkers, 13 years was the average age of first exposure, and 14 years was the average age for first intoxication experience.

Alcohol is the most commonly abused substance in Canada.

24% of offenders entering federal custody (2 years' imprisonment or more) report having been under the influence of alcohol when they committed the crime

More than 2,700 children are born each year with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

In 2002, alcohol accounted for more than $14.6 billion in costs (that’s $463 per person) and represented 36% of the total costs of substance abuse. – MADD Canada

Motor vehicle crashes, liver cirrhosis, suicides, oesophageal cancer, and arrhythmias were the leading causes of alcohol-related deaths. — MADD Canada

Need Help?

To get help anywhere in British Columbia, call Alcohol and Drug Information Referral Service 1-800-663-1441 (throughout BC) or 604-660-9382 (in Greater Vancouver)

For more information on dealing with alcohol or other drugs, visit