Alcohol (also known as booze and other nicknames) is an intoxicating substance present in alcoholic beverages such as beer, wine, and spirits. It is also a depressant drug that is legal in Canada, which impacts parts of your brain, affecting your thinking, behaviour, breathing and heart rate. It should be consumed moderately.
How alcohol affects you
Alcohol can make you feel:
- a sense of wellbeing
- disinhibited (having less control over your actions, especially inappropriate actions)
- euphoric (intense feeling of excitement or happiness)
Alcohol has the same effect no matter which alcoholic beverage you drink. Exactly how it affects you depends on factors such as:
- the amount you drink
- your gender and age
- your body size
- how quickly you drink
- the amount and type of food you have eaten
- medications you are taking that may interact with alcohol
- your past experiences with drinking
- your overall health
- your mood
Alcohol absorbs into your bloodstream through your mouth, stomach, and intestines. Most of your organs and tissues are exposed to the same amount of alcohol as your blood, but your liver is exposed to more. Alcohol continues to circulate through your body until your liver eliminates it. Some alcohol (10%) exits your body through urine, sweat and breathing.
How Alcohol Impacts the Immune System
Alcohol impairs your immune system, causing damage to the lungs, and the digestive system’s ability to protect the body from disease, making it more likely for heavy drinkers to experience respiratory infections, stomach problems, and liver disease. It can also increase stress, disrupt sleep, contribute to weight gain, and make you more likely to smoke cigarettes or use other substances you might not normally choose to use.
On January 18, 2023, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) issued new guidance on Alcohol and Health to help Canadians understand the actual risks associated with alcohol consumption to reduce short and long-term health effects.
Reducing alcohol intake can make you healthier and improve your body’s ability to fight off infections and heal from health problems. Even small changes to reduce alcohol consumption can help reduce your risk of harm. Alcohol is not necessary for a good time.
Being mindful about alcohol consumption can look different for everyone – drinking occasionally or not at all. A moderate relationship with alcohol is possible. This means incorporating more sober activities into daily life.
Tips for Sips
- Drink lots of water before you start drinking alcohol, and while you’re drinking. Staying hydrated will help you stay clear-headed and prevent a hangover.
- Don’t drink on an empty stomach!
- Avoid salty foods – they can make you thirsty and encourage you to drink more than you intend.
- Try a shandy or a spritzer – mixing alcohol with non-alcoholic drinks keeps the party going longer.
- Don’t JUST go drinking – play a game, dance, do karaoke. Focus on the fun, not the booze.
- Measure your drinks and know how much you’re drinking.
- Find ways to relax without alcohol after a stressful day. Even if you have a drink sometimes, it’s good to know what else helps you relax.
- Become a One-Drink Wonder! Have one fancy, delicious drink and make it last.
- Support your friends – if people are trying to cut down on drinking, join them in some sober fun and don’t pressure them.
- Set realistic goals. If you drink a lot and want to cut down, don’t try to stop all at once – instead, try to add one alcohol-free day each week, then try for more. Celebrate all your victories!