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Alcohol Use

A focus on health and healthy living in Canadian culture means that many young people are choosing not to drink alcohol, or to delay choosing to drink. Many youth are also choosing to set limits and follow health and safety guidelines as part of their healthy lifestyle choice.

Other young people will drink alcohol and not develop any problems, but the risk is there and it is worth getting the facts. Some factors will increase the risk of developing problems with alcohol, such as starting at a young age and using regularly.

Did you know?

Teens are still growing and developing and alcohol can harm the way the body and brain develop. Young people should speak with their parents about drinking. If choosing to drink, they should do so under parental guidance; never more than 1–2 drinks at a time, and never more than 1–2 times per week. Young people who choose to drink should plan ahead, follow local alcohol laws and consider the Safer drinking tips listed in “Canada’s Low Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines.”

If you have any concerns with your alcohol use, go the Alcohol Quiz page in this section and complete the questions. This will give you more information to understand your situation.

Risk Factors

As mentioned, some factors can put you at increased risk of developing alcohol problems. These factors don’t automatically mean that you might develop a problem, but they do increase the risk that this could happen. Some of these factors may include:

  • A family history of alcohol or other substance abuse problems;
  • Difficulty coping with or managing stress and other problems;
  • Problems at home;
  • Having an untreated anxiety, depression or other mental health disorder;
  • Difficulty fitting in at school, at work or with a peer group; and
  • Experiencing a stressful life change or traumatic event
  • Alternating between periods of abstinence and binge drinking,
  • Being unfamiliar with the effects of alcohol, putting you at risk for injury and alcohol poisoning.

When does alcohol become a problem?

Any of the following signs may indicate that you or someone you know may have a problem with alcohol. You may find:

  • Your drinking is increasing, and the number of drinks you have on any one occasion is growing;
  • You’re drinking more frequently;
  • You’re doing things when using alcohol that you are not happy with or proud of, or you feel like you have to hide from people;
  • You have difficulty cutting down on or controlling your drinking;
  • You’re relying on alcohol to help escape from your worries or problems;
  • You’re using alcohol as the main source of your entertainment and fun;
  • You’re spending a lot of time getting alcohol, using it or recovering from it; or
  • You’re having problems at school, work or in relationships as a result of your drinking.

If you can say “yes” to several of these statements, alcohol may be a problem for you – consider visiting “Getting Help” or go to “Need Help Now?

Getting help

Seek emergency help immediately if you are having suicidal thoughts, or thoughts of harming yourself or others.

You should also seek help right away if you:

  • Have depressive thoughts along with your alcohol use;
  • Feel that you behave differently when using alcohol;
  • Are experiencing prolonged trouble sleeping;
  • Have heard from family and/or friends that they believe your alcohol use is a problem; or
  • Have tried self-help efforts (such as cutting down), but they haven’t helped.
  • Anytime you find someone unconscious after using alcohol (health and safety first)

Safer alcohol use

  • choose not to drink alcohol. Sometimes friends will try to pressure you to drink when you don’t want to. Here are some hacks for sticking to your decision:
    • Say you are on medication and can’t drink alcohol;
    • Take on the task of being a designated driver;
    • Say you don’t like the taste of alcohol
  • Make your own drinks without alcohol or order non-alcoholic drinks at a bar (soft drinks are often free in bars and restaurants if you tell your server you’re the designated driver)
  • If you’re over the age of 18, follow Canada’s Low Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines when drinking alcohol;
  • Be aware of how alcohol affects you;
  • Plan ahead if you know you will be drinking alcohol – arrange a ride home and know where you’re going;
  • If you drink alcohol often, try to reduce the number of times per week that you use alcohol;
  • Engage in other activities during the evening, such as dancing, playing pool or playing darts;
  • Don’t drink on an empty stomach – always eat before and while drinking;
  • Have a glass of water or soft drink to quench your thirst before having your first drink;
  • Decide ahead of time how many drinks you’ll have and stick to your plan;
  • As your night goes on, think about how you are feeling as you drink and slow down or stop if you’re starting to feel like you’re not in control;
  • Drink a glass of water or a soft drink in between alcoholic drinks;
  • Don’t try to keep up with other drinkers, and avoid drinking games;
  • Know when you’ve had enough and say so;
  • Don’t let other people top up your drinks – and finish one before starting another.

Keep yourself safe when drinking alcohol

  • Only get in a car with sober drivers – decide who will be the designated driver before you go out, do not operate any machinery or tools when drinking
  • Do not use alcohol if you are taking medication which may interact adversely with alcohol
  • Limit the use of caffeinated beverages when using alcohol, recent information indicates negative effects;
  • Drink alcohol only in the company of good friends;
  • Keep an eye out for each other – intervene if you see a friend becoming excessively drunk; and get help immediately if you find anyone unconscious after drinking alcohol
  • Never leave your drink unattended.
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