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Underage drinking is very common in Canada.

ALSO KNOWN AS: booze, cocktails, firewater, grog, hooch, juice, liquor, moonshine, rotgut, sauce, spirits, tipple, vino

The average age of first time alcohol use in Canada is 13 years old.

Close to 80% of young Canadians 15 years and older have reported drinking alcohol during the past year. It is the substance that the majority of young people in grades 7 through 12 will try first.1

There are several reasons that a teen might decide to drink alcohol.

Adolescence is an exciting time, but it can also be a time where peer pressure, boredom, risk-taking and the need to ‘fit in’ become important factors in a teenager’s life. Sometimes the opinions and actions of your teen’s friends matter more to them than yours.

Talk About Alcohol

Young people may drink because they may feel a need to be like their friends or older siblings, or because they may see it happening all around them, on social media or at parties. They may be copying your drinking habits, or they may use alcohol to help them relax or deal with stress or anxiety they may feel.

Whatever the reason, the younger the person is when they begin drinking, the higher the risk for poor health and problems related to alcohol consumption later in life.2

What is alcohol?

Alcohol, also known as ethanol or ethyl alcohol, is a legal substance known for its psychoactive properties. Pure ethanol is clear and colourless liquid that is present at varying levels in alcoholic beverages such as beer, wine or spirits. Alcoholic beverages get their distinctive colours from their ingredients and from the process of fermentation.

What does alcohol look like & how is it used?

Beer, wine and cider are made through the fermentation process – a natural process in which yeast changes sugar into alcohol. Typically, this biological process creates alcoholic drinks with lower concentrations of alcohol – in the range of 4% to 15%.

Spirits, such as gin, rum, whiskey and vodka are created when alcohol is distilled. Distillation is an industrial process that makes spirits with higher alcohol concentrations – 40% or more.

There are two other types of alcohol – these are never safe to drink.

Isopropyl Alcohol (known as rubbing alcohol) is used in sterilization agents, such as hand sanitizers and in everyday cleaning products and cosmetics.

Methyl Alcohol (known as methanol or wood alcohol is used as an industrial solvent, antifreeze and fuel for camping stoves.

Signs and symptoms of alcohol use

Effects and Risks

For many people, a single drink of alcohol releases tension and reduces inhibition, making them feel more at ease and outgoing. Some people feel happy or excited when they drink, while others become depressed or hostile. Suicide and violent crimes often involve alcohol.

Women are generally more sensitive to the effects of alcohol than men, and all adults become increasingly sensitive to alcohol’s effects as they age. When someone is more sensitive, it takes less alcohol to cause intoxication and more time for the body to eliminate the alcohol consumed.

Early signs of alcohol intoxication include:

  • flushed skin
  • impaired judgment
  • reduced inhibition

Continued drinking increases these effects and causes other effects, such as:

  • impaired attention
  • reduced muscle control
  • slowed reflexes
  • staggering gait
  • slurred speech
  • double or blurred vision.

A severely intoxicated person may “black out,” and have no memory of what was said or done while drinking. Effects of extreme intoxication include inability to stand, vomiting, stupor, coma and death. 3


1 – Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey, October 2018

2 – Health Canada –

3 – CAMH –

  • Mixing substances can have negative effects
    Teens don’t typically use alcohol OR cannabis; they use both, at the same time. Learn more about the potential impacts of polysubstance use.
  • Back to School
    Substances at a Glance – We’ve created four easy to read, informational resource sheets about the substances that kids are probably hearing about the most, so you can talk about them with your kids.
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