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Alcohol & Addiction

Some Information on Alcohol

Alcohol is a mind altering drug it is considered a “depressant”. Depressants are substance that depresses the central nervous it slows down the thinking process and affects behavior, as well as breathing and heart rate. Depressants also include drugs such as opioids like heroin, morphine Percocet and OxyContin to name a few. Alcohol is the most popular and most accepted mind-altering substance in the world. It has been around in various cultures as far back as 8000 BC.

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Alcohol and the Body

Alcohol is absorbed through small blood vessels in the walls of the stomach (about 20%) and small intestine (80%) and carried in the bloodstream through the body. From there the liver metabolizes alcohol and eliminates its toxicity but can only process a certain amount the rest of the alcohol will remain in the bloodstream and have its effect on the body. The liver eliminates one standard drink (13.6 grams of alcohol) from the body in about 1.5 hours.

The effect felt from alcohol is determined by the following factors:

  • your age, sex and body weight
  • how sensitive you are to alcohol
  • the type and amount of food in your stomach
  • how much and how often you drink and how long you’ve been drinking, in other words; your tolerance level. (Tolerance is the increasing amount one needs to get the initial buzz)

Alcohol poisoning may occur when the blood alcohol content (BAC) exceeds a certain level.

Binge Drinking

Binge drinking is a consumption of large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time. According to the Canadian Medical Association binge drinking is considered to be 5 or more drink for men and 4 or more drinks for women in one sitting.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

A person that has been drinking for a long period of time, or drinks frequently, or drinks heavily when drinking (binge drinking), may experience some form of withdrawal when they stop drinking suddenly. 

They may feel or experience:

  • Nervousness and jumpiness
  • Sleep problems, bad dreams
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty thinking
  • Hallucinations (hearing or seeing things that aren’t there).
  • Tremors (the “shakes”)
  • Seizures*
  • Delirium Tremens*

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can begin as early as two hours after the last drink and persist for weeks.

* Alcohol withdrawal is potentially life-threatening when severe complications, such as seizures and delirium tremens (DTs) set in. Delirium Tremens is a state of confusion, rapid heartbeat, disorientation and fever. The estimated death rate from DTs ranges from 1% to 5%. With heavy long term drinking or long term alcoholism medical detoxification is highly recommended.

Alcohol Consumption in Canada

As reported by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health most Canadian adults drink alcohol responsibly. But drinking alcohol in any amount has its own risks as it is a mind altering drug.

Statistics in 2005;

  • 62 per cent of all Ontario students age 13 to 18 reported drinking at least once in the past year.
  • 10 per cent of students drank alcohol once a week.
  • Binge drinking was reported by 25 per cent of male students and 20 per cent of female students in the past month.
  • Beer is the most popular alcoholic drink in Canada more than half of Canadians consume it.
  • Liquor, like rum or vodka, is second at 26 per cent
  • Wine at 21 per cent is third.
  • About $12.4 billion a year is spent on alcohol by Canadians.
  • Around 10 per cent of Canada’s population is dependent on alcohol at some point in their lives.

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