33Alcohol 


 
Classification
Central nervous system depressant

alcohol

Examples
beer, wine, spirits (e.g., whiskey, rum, gin, vodka, liqueurs), coolers

Short-term effects
  • Relaxation
  • Loss of inhibitions (lowered feelings of shyness, self-consciousness, or reservation)
  • Reduced coordination
  • Slower reflexes and mental processes (e.g., reaction time)
  • Attitude changes, poor judgment
  • Effects are increased by using alcohol with other drugs, including minor tranquillizers, opiates, and antihistamines (e.g., allergy medication).


Short-term dangers
  • Serious overdose may lead to death from respiratory depression (breathing slows or stops).
  • Alcohol-related harm can happen right away, such as death or injury from fighting, car crashes, work-related incidents, drowning, falls, and fires.


Effects and dangers of longer-term use

Long-term, regular heavy drinking (five drinks or more at a time) increases the possibility of
  • diseases such as gastritis, pancreatitis, cirrhosis of the liver, certain gastrointestinal cancers, heart disease, brain damage
  • alcohol dependency syndrome (also known as alcoholism), which usually brings on a range of health, safety, legal, and money problems, as well as problems with family, friends, and working life.


Alcohol use and pregnancy
  • There is no safe time to drink alcohol during pregnancy. There is no safe amount of alcohol to drink during pregnancy. Binge drinking (for females, this means drinking more than four or more drinks on an occasion) is most likely to harm the unborn baby. However, research shows that children born to mothers who drank as little as one drink during pregnancy, may have behaviour and learning problems. Therefore, all drinking should be avoided during pregnancy.
  • Drinking during pregnancy can cause a range of lifelong effects known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. In the worst cases, a child with fetal alcohol syndrome might grow less, have mental disabilities and look different than other children. These effects do not go away over time.
  • Stopping or drinking less alcohol at any point in a pregnancy increases the chances of positive results for the child. No alcohol during pregnancy is the best and safest choice for a healthy baby.


Alcohol dependence
  • An alcohol-dependent person gets used to the effects of alcohol, has a higher tolerance (needs more alcohol to feel its effects), and experiences alcohol withdrawal syndrome when stopping.
  • Other signs of alcohol dependence include drinking alcohol in larger amounts or over a longer period of time than the person meant to; failed attempts to quit; spending increasing amounts of time on activities linked to drinking or getting alcohol; not looking after other daily activities; and not thinking about the consequences of negative behaviours.


Withdrawal
  • The first (and sometimes only) phase involves trembling, excessive sweating, feeling upset or on edge, headache, nausea (feeling sick to your stomach, like you might throw up), and higher blood pressure and heart rate.
  • A withdrawal syndrome that features seizures, convulsions, hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t there), and/or delirium tremens (which includes sweating, shaking, anxiety, and confusion) may occur when quitting after drinking alcohol heavily and regularly for a long time.


Alcohol and the law
  • Currently, you must be at least 19 years old to purchase alcohol in all provinces and territories, except for Quebec, Manitoba, and Alberta, where you must be 18 years old.
  • Provincial laws make it illegal for restaurants and bars to sell alcohol to underage, drunk, or disruptive people. Restaurants, bars, and those holding special events must pay attention to these regulations because courts have sent a message to these establishments that they must be careful not to serve a guest to the point of drunkenness. In recent years, there have been several court cases in which licensed establishments were sued after an intoxicated person hurt him- or herself or someone else.
  • Both the federal and provincial governments have a responsibility to control alcohol advertising on television and radio and in newspapers, although over the past number of years, governments have stepped back and allowed the alcohol and advertising industries to make sure they follow the rules themselves.
  • It is against the law to drive with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 percent or more. It is also illegal to drive while drunk even if one’s BAC is less than .08 percent. On top of the federal laws, all provinces and territories have laws that mean you can have your driver’s licence suspended almost right away if your BAC is over a certain limit (in most cases, lower than .08 percent) or if you don’t provide a breath sample.
  • All provinces and territories in Canada except for PEI and Nunavut have graduated licensing programs for new drivers, and in all provinces and territories it is against the law for new drivers to drive with any alcohol at all in their blood.


Use of alcohol in Nova Scotia
  • Aside from caffeine, alcohol is the most commonly used drug in Nova Scotia.
  • Seventy-six percent of Nova Scotians 15 years and older reported that they had drunk alcohol in the past year, according to the 2004 Canadian Addiction Survey (compared to 79 percent of all Canadians).
  • Fifty-eight percent of Nova Scotians are light drinkers (they have less than five drinks when they drink), while 18 percent are heavy drinkers (they drink five or more drinks at a time).
  • In 2007, 52 percent of students in grades 7–12 in Nova Scotia reported that they had drunk alcohol in the past year—consistent with the 2002 data. The higher the grade, the larger the percentage of students drinking: 12 percent of grade 7s, 49 percent of grade 9s, 63 percent of grade 10s, and 80 percent of grade 12s.
  • The percentage of students in 2007 who have not only drunk alcohol but who have been drunk in the past thirty days also increases through the grades: 5 percent of grade 7s, 22 percent of grade 9s, 33 percent of grade 10s, and 46 percent of grade 12s.


Standard drink
A standard drink has the same amount of alcohol (17 ml or 0.6 oz.), no matter what kind of drink it is. For example, each of the following is equal to one standard drink2.

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2. Most of these beverages also come in "extra strength" versions.