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A lcohol is a liquid made by fermenting or distilling grains or fruit. Alcohol is categorized as a drug, not a food, because of its mood-altering impacts. Alcohol is considered a depressant, which means it slows down the messages sent from the brain to the rest of the body. This can result in slower breathing, lower heart rate and lower blood pressure.

The level of alcohol in the bloodstream is called the ‘Blood Alcohol Concentration’ (BAC). A person’s BAC is based on many factors: the type of alcohol, the amount consumed, as well as the person’s size, metabolism and biology.

In the short-term, drinking alcohol may create a sense of relaxation and decreased inhibition. However, this comes with drowsiness, dizziness and other impacts on coordination, speech and vision. Decreased inhibition may also lead people to act before they think, which may result in poor decision-making and/or negative impacts on relationships with friends or others.

Drinking too much can cause the body to slow down to the point that people fall asleep, become unconscious (pass out), or in extreme cases, die from alcohol poisoning.

People can experience a ‘hangover’ after drinking, which is in part caused by mild alcohol withdrawal. Headache, nausea, fatigue and sometimes vomiting and shakiness, can occur 8 – 12 hours after the person has stopped drinking.

Long term consequences of heavy drinking include potential brain damage, ulcers, liver disease, malnutrition, heart damage and some forms of cancer.

Withdrawal occurs when someone who has used alcohol consistently over time suddenly stops. Symptoms of withdrawal may include reduced appetite, nausea or vomiting, anxiety, disrupted sleep, irritability, sweating and tremors (shakes).

On a population level, alcohol is the most ‘popular’ drug, meaning it is most frequently used by the largest number of people.

In the most recent Canadian Student Tobacco, Alcohol and Drug Survey (CSTADS) in 2021-2022, Canadian students reported on their experiences with alcohol. Here are a few key findings:

  • 39% of students had used alcohol in the previous 12 months
  • The average age of first use/onset of experimentation with alcohol is between 12 -14 years
  • The data shows a growing trend towards youth combining alcohol with energy drinks


In Canada, each province and territory sets its own legal drinking age. Currently, the drinking age in Alberta, Manitoba and Québec is 18 years old, while the rest of the country is set at 19 years old.

Reaching the legal drinking age does not necessarily mean the risks associated with alcohol use are reduced. Of main concern are the impacts of alcohol on brain growth and development, which occurs at least until 25 years of age.

Dangers of Using Alcohol with Energy Drinks:

There is a growing trend of using alcohol and energy drinks together. The stimulating nature or ‘up’ of energy drinks hides the depressant effects of alcohol, which can cause people to drink more without feeling drunk. This is particularly dangerous for youth who may not yet understand their own limits and tolerance for alcohol use.


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