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A resource to start the conversation
about drug use and abuse.

.::: The Dangers of Teenage Drinking

"It's only alcohol, so it's no big deal, right?"


Since it's legal and socially acceptable, many people don't realize that alcohol is a drug.

Alcohol is not only used more by teens, but also poses a greater risk to them than any other drug.

Kids who drink alcohol are more prone to:

  • Injuries from falling down.
  • Taking risks.
  • Getting in fights.
  • Dating violence: controlling a girlfriend or boyfriend through words or actions that demean or intimidate, such as name-calling, threats, slapping and unwanted sexual demands.
  • Unplanned, unwanted, and unprotected sex.
  • Drinking and driving or riding with someone who has been drinking.
For tips and strategies for talking to your kids about alcohol, take our
Talk about Drugs online parent modules.

The teen brain

Studies show that the teen brain develops rapidly almost as rapidly as an infant's.

The Dangers of Teenage Drinking

Early alcohol use can harm a teen's brain and affect judgment, decision-making, impulse control, learning and memory. It can also wire the brain for addiction.

Though many teens eventually choose to drink, delaying alcohol use can help keep teens safe and reduce their risk of dependence.

Some teens make unwise decisions about alcohol. They often drink too much for their body size and don't realize the dangers of their actions.

Many teens never consider that something bad can happen to them.

Binge drinking

Many teens drink too much too fast.

Binge drinking is ingesting a lot of alcohol (5 or more drinks in a row) in a short amount of time such as a night out with friends, during a drinking game or simply drinking too much to get drunk.

Many kids drink 10-15 drinks (extreme binge drinking) sometimes more on one occasion.

That amount of alcohol puts teens at greater risk for unwise choices, harmful behaviours and dangerous circumstances including:

  • Misjudging a situation or what is being said.
  • Getting into a fight (verbal or physical).
  • Having blackouts (a period of amnesia where person is alert and can walk and talk, but the brain doesn't form new memories of events that happened).
  • Getting sick or injured.
  • Alcohol poisoning.

Alcohol poisoning and the Bacchus Manoeuvre

Alcohol poisoning happens when a body can’t handle the amount of alcohol in the bloodstream. If the drinking continues, the body can shut down and the person can lose consciousness.

Someone with alcohol poisoning might vomit to eliminate the “poison” (alcohol) from the body. If they are lying on their back, they might choke on their own vomit. Or, if the blood alcohol level is so high that it affects the brain and nervous system, they might stop breathing or their heart might stop.

Make sure your teens know what to do if someone passes out.

Tell them to:

  • Position the person using the Bacchus Manoeuvre.
  • Stay with the person and watch for slowed breathing and skin that is pale or bluish or cold and clammy.
  • Call 911 if they can't wake the person up or if they think the person needs medical attention.

Bacchus Manoeuvre

  1. Raise the person's closest arm above the head. Prepare to roll the person towards you. Bacchus Manoeuvre
  2. Gently roll as a unit. Guard the head as you roll the person. Bacchus Manoeuvre
  3. Tilt the person's head to maintain airway, and then tuck the person's nearest hand under their cheek to help maintain head tilt.
    Bacchus Manoeuvre
  4. Check the person often.

Alcohol and sex

Alcohol lowers inhibition and interferes with wise decision-making, sometimes leading to unplanned, unprotected and unwanted sex. It's common for teens to be intoxicated when they have sex for the first time.

Alcohol is used much more often as a rape drug than GHB or Rohypnol.

Underage drinking & the law

In Ontario, it's illegal to buy, drink or possess alcohol if you're under the age of 19.

The legal consequences of underage drinking can be severe. Kids younger than 19 who are caught drinking can face police warnings, severe fines and even arrest.

It's also against the law to give alcohol to someone under the age of 19 (a minor). If you supply alcohol to a minor you risk a fine of $200,000 and up to 1 year in jail.

Be sure you're aware of your liability and other legal issues if your teen is hosting a party in your home.

Mixing alcohol & drugs*

Polydrug use is using more than one drug at one time.

The Dangers of Teenage Drinking

Teens mix drugs and alcohol together because:

  • They want to heighten the effect of alcohol.
  • They're already intoxicated and incapable of making wise decisions about their safety and the safety of others around them.

There is a greater chance of harm if more than one drug is used at a time (this includes mixing over-the-counter drugs, prescription drugs and illegal drugs).

Polydrug use increases the risk of:

  • An abnormal heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature
  • Overdose.
  • Emotional and mental disturbances such as panic attacks and paranoia.

Mixing marijuana and alcohol is the most common form of polydrug use.

*Source: National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre


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Revised: May 11, 2016


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