Did you know alcohol is the #1 drug used by teens?

Over the past several years, alcohol use by teens has been a good-news/bad-news story. The good news is that young teens are waiting longer before they experiment with drinking, and there have been important decreases in the rates of drinking overall. In fact, a quarter of teens who drink report that they limit their alcohol consumption to special occasions.

But the concern is that when teens do get involved in heavy drinking or binge drinking (defined as having five or more drinks on one occasion) they tend to get themselves into trouble. And the more a teen drinks the greater the risks become.

  • 43% of Ontario students in grades 7 – 12 report having one drink or more in the past year.  This rate increases to almost 68% in grade 12.
  • About 1/6 of students report binge drinking in the month prior to the survey.  This number increases to 1/3 of students by grade 12.
  • Almost 1/7 of students report drinking at harmful or hazardous levels. By grade 12, this increases to 23%
Boys and girls are now on equal ground with heavy drinking.

Fifteen years ago female students reported significantly less binge drinking and drunkenness than males.  At the present time guys and girls are equally likely to binge drink and get drunk.

  • From 2003 to 2017, binge drinking among male students decreased from 29.4% to 14%, whereas for female students it has gone from 22.6% to 14%.
  • In 2003, 28.5% of male students reported becoming drunk. In 2017, that number dropped to 16%, where as in 2003, about 24% of female students reported becoming drunk, and in 2017 16% did – a decrease of 8%.

Girls get drunk faster than boys—even if they drink at the same rate.

When a girl or woman drinks, the alcohol in her bloodstream reaches a higher level than in a boy’s or man’s—even if they have similar weights and builds and both drink the same amount. This is because alcohol mixes with body water, and females generally have a higher fat-to-water ratio than males.  Females also have less active alcohol dehydrogenase enzyme, which begins to break down alcohol in the stomach lining.

For this reason, drinking guidelines consistently recommend that women drink less than men.

The more a teen drinks, the more they increase the risk of hurting themselves or others.

Do you know the dangers of overdoing it with alcohol?

The risks associated with alcohol include:

  • Car crashes – When youth under 19 die in car crashes, more than 50% of the time alcohol is involved.
  • Serious injuries – Adolescents have the highest rate of injury of any age group. Alcohol decreases coordination and impairs motor skills, leading to an even greater likelihood of teens getting hurt.
  • Alcohol poisoning – When a person consumes too much alcohol over a short period of time, their liver can’t process it and alcohol poisoning occurs. It’s one of the real dangers of binge drinking.  Alcohol poisoning can lead to shallow breathing, irregular heartbeat, dehydration, choking on your own vomit, loss of consciousness or even death.
  • Risky sexual behaviour – Drinking can cloud judgement and increase the odds of unsafe sex, an unplanned pregnancy, contracting a sexually transmitted infection or becoming a victim or perpetrator of aggressive physical or sexual behaviour.
  • Substance use - Binge drinkers are more likely to use other drugs, like street drugs, over-the-counter drugs, prescription drugs that weren’t prescribed for them and high caffeine energy drinks.  Adding any drug to the alcohol mix also increases the physical and behavioural risks of drinking.
Do you know that Canada has Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines?

Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines can help both adults and youth to stay in control and make good choices about their drinking.

Canada has a set of low-risk drinking guidelines that include a section for teens. These guidelines aren’t meant to support underage drinking, but to help reduce harmful drinking.  They send a message that lower levels of alcohol intake reduce risks for those who choose to drink —both for teens and for adults.

Find out more about Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines

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