Problematic Alcohol Use

Alcohol is a depressant drug that slows down your body's central nervous system.

While a small amount of alcohol may provide health benefits for some, drinking excessively can cause serious health issues.

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About problematic alcohol use

Problematic alcohol use can affect your concentration, speech, balance, vision, coordination, judgement, and overall health.

Exactly how it affects you depends on several factors:

  • the amount you drink
  • your gender and age
  • your body size
  • how quickly you drink
  • your mood
  • the amount and type of food you have eaten
  • your past experiences with drinking
  • medications you are taking that may interact with alcohol
  • your overall health

Health effects of short-term heavy drinking 

Drinking too much alcohol can cause:

  • drowsiness
  • dizziness
  • slurred speech
  • reduced inhibition
  • loss of coordination skills
  • inability to think and judge clearly
  • inability to estimate distances
  • decreased reaction times
  • confusion or memory loss
  • blackouts
  • negative mood states (depression)
  • violence
  • suicide
  • vomiting and choking
  • irregular heart beat
  • respiratory depression, coma, or death

Health effects of long-term problematic alcohol use

Over time, problematic use can lead to more serious health problems such as:

  • brain damage (dementia, difficulties with coordination, and motor control
  • depression
  • increased risk of suicide
  • increased risk of high blood pressure
  • increased risk of stroke
  • increased risk of heart disease
  • liver damage
  • stomach ulcers
  • blood vessel disorders
  • impotency in men
  • menstrual irregularities in women
  • some types of cancer
  • addiction
  • death

Long-term problematic alcohol use can also lead to professional, personal, financial, and legal problems, any of which can affect your health.

Did you know?

Drinking while pregnant puts your baby at risk of being born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, the safest choice is to drink no alcohol at all.

Reduce your risk

Responsible drinking saves lives.

  • Limit the amount of alcohol you drink. Your risk of injury increases with every drink.
  • Don't drink alcohol on an empty stomach. Eat before--and while--you drink.
  • Alternate alcoholic beverages with alcohol-free drinks to limit the amount you drink in any three-hour period.
  • Drink only if you want. Don't feel pressured into accepting a drink.
  • Don't drive. Take a taxi or public transportation, walk, or decide who will be the designated driver before you start drinking.
  • Use Canada's Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines to help you decide when, where, and how to drink.

Did you know?

About 40% of car crashes in Canada are caused by alcohol.

Responsible hosting can help keep you and your guests safe.

  • Limit how much you drink so you can stay in control of the party.
  • Before the party, ask a friend or family member to help you if problems arise during the event.
  • Provide guests with plenty of alcohol-free drinks like water, coffee, tea, pop, fruit punch, and juice.
  • Mix and serve drinks yourself or appoint someone responsible as bartender. People tend to drink more when they serve themselves.
  • Serve food, but avoid salty and greasy snacks because they'll make your guests thirstier.
  • Stop serving alcohol at least an hour before the party ends.
  • Don't rely on coffee to sober up guests. It only makes them more alert, not sober.
  • Encourage guests to use designated drivers, leave their cars at home, take taxis or public transport, or walk. Keep cash and taxi numbers handy.
  • Be prepared for overnight guests by having blankets, sleeping bags, and pillows on hand.
  • Never serve alcohol to minors.
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