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.
On this page:
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:
- 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
- negative mood states (depression)
- 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
- 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
Long-term problematic alcohol use can also lead to professional, personal, financial, and legal problems, any of which can affect your health.
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.
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.
- Canada's Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines
- About alcohol - Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
- How to protect your liver if you drink alcohol - Canadian Liver Foundation
- Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder - Public Health Agency of Canada
- Healthy Pregnancy Guide: Alcohol and Pregnancy - Public Health Agency of Canada
- Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
Report a problem or mistake on this page
- Date modified: