Need information? Help is close at hand. Check out our Alcohol info below for an in-depth look at this drug.
Commercial and Street Names
Beer, spirits, wine, coolers, hard liquor, liqueurs, booze, moonshine, brewski, shooters, brew, barley sandwich, hooch, 40 pounder.
Description of Alcohol
Alcohol is produced naturally by fermentation of fruits, vegetables or grains. One shot of distilled spirits (40% alcohol) has the same amount of alcohol (0.54 ounces) as one 5-ounce glass of wine (13% alcohol) or one 12-ounce serving of beer (5% alcohol). Alcohol is also found in many toiletries (mouth wash, after shave), cooking products (vanilla extract) and household cleaners (Lysol®). Alcohol is a contributing factor in many drug overdoses.
Alcohol is, by far, the most widely-abused drug in Canada.
Effects of Alcohol
Small dose effects include euphoria, drowsiness, dizziness, flushing, release of inhibitions and tensions. Larger doses produce slurred speech, staggering, double vision, stupor. A “hangover” with headache, nausea, shakiness and vomiting may begin 8 to 12 hours after a period of excessive drinking.
Long-term effects of daily drinking can lead to liver damage, brain damage, heart disease, loss of memory, ulcers, disorders of the pancreas and impotence. Chronic drinkers are likely to become physically and psychologically dependent. Withdrawal symptoms are the same as a “hangover” but may also include tremors, agitation, anxiety, panic attacks, elevated blood pressure and heart rate, seizures, delirium tremens, hallucinations and death. Women who are pregnant should abstain from alcohol.
Source: Health Canada (2000). Straight Facts About Drugs &
Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) and Alcohol Impairment
Blood alcohol concentration, or “BAC,” is a way to determine the concentration of alcohol in a person’s bloodstream measured as mass per volume. For
example, a BAC of 0.04% means 0.04 grams of alcohol per 100 grams of blood. In most provinces and states in North America, the BAC at which a person is considered to be legally impaired is 0.08 percent. BAC is the most common way for law enforcement to determine whether a person can safely operate a motor vehicle. BAC can be measured within 30 to 70 minutes after a person has had a drink.
The rate at which alcohol enters the bloodstream may vary depending on (1) the number of drinks (2) how fast you drink, (3) the amount of food in your stomach
(absorption slows if you’ve had something to eat), (4) your weight, and (5) gender. As a general rule of thumb, the average person will eliminate 0.5 ounces (15 ml) of alcohol per hour. Factors such as age and gender, however, affect the body’s ability to metabolize alcohol.
The following chart shows common symptoms people exhibit at various BAC levels, and the effects on the driver when operating a motor vehicle:
Caution: alcohol intoxication can amplify the effects of medication, fatigue and mood states such as depression. Extra care is recommended when operating a motor vehicle or heavy equipment.
Binge Alcohol Drinking Defined
On February 5, 2004, the NIAAA National Advisory Council approved the following definition:
A “binge” is a pattern of drinking alcohol that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 gram percent or above. For the typical adult, this pattern corresponds to consuming 5 or more drinks (male), or 4 or more drinks (female), in about 2 hours.
In the above definition, a “drink” refers to half an ounce of alcohol (e.g., one 12oz. beer, one 5oz. glass of wine, or one 1.5oz. shot of distilled spirits). For some individuals (e.g., older people or people taking other drugs or certain medications), the number of drinks needed to reach a binge level BAC is lower than for the “typical adult.” People with risk factors for the development of alcoholism have increased risk with any level of alcohol consumption, even that below a “risky” level. For pregnant women, any drinking presents risk to the fetus.
Source: The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) Newsletter. Winter 2004, No. 3.
Printed Resources – General Information
Alcohol: The World’s Favourite Drug(2003) asks how society might in the future better handle this pleasure-giving, somewhat dangerous drug. Can society get its pleasure out of alcohol without the inevitable suffering that accompanies misuse? Griffith Edwards.
Loosening the Grip: A Handbook of Alcohol Information (2005) is a resource for understanding alcohol and its physical and psychological effects on an individual. Jean Kinney
Printed Resources – Culture and Alcohol
Drinking Cultures: Alcohol and Identity(2005) is a cross-cultural study of the profound impact alcohol has on national identity throughout the world today. Thomas M. Wilson.
Drinking Occasions: Comparative Perspectives on Alcohol and Culture(2000) aims to deal directly with the challenge of how to define responsible drinking in the face of the world’s many different drinking styles, and to portray the many ways in which people have thought about or used alcohol as an integral part of their culture. Dwight B. Heath.
Printed Resources – Functioning Alcoholics and Alcohol
Substance-abusing High Achievers: Addiction as an Equal Opportunity Destroyer(1998) demonstrates that addiction is an equal opportunity destroyer and describes the high-achieving substance abuser. Abraham J. Twerski.
Printed Resources – History of Alcohol
Alcoholism in America: From Reconstruction to Prohibition (2005) tells the story of physicians, politicians, court officials, and families struggling to address the increasing danger of excessive alcohol consumption at the turn of the century. Sarah W. Tracy
Booze: A Distilled History (2004) is a historical review of alcohol and its impact on Canadian history. Craig Heron.
The Bronfmans: The Rise and Fall of the House of Seagram(2006) details the Bronfman family saga, Seagram, the first worldwide liquor empire, and its eventual fall from grace. Nicholas Faith.
Drink in Canada: Historical Essays (1993) is a collection of essays that describe drinking habits, temperance movements, and the prohibition experience in Canada from the 1830s to the 1980s. Cheryl Lynn Krasnick Warsh.
Love on the Rocks: Men, Women, and Alcohol in Post-World War II (2002) is a history of alcohol in postwar American culture, investigating how gender norms and ideologies of marriage intersected with scientific and popular ideas about drinking and alcoholism. Lori Rotskoff.
Printed Resources – Impaired Driving and Alcohol
Get Out of the Way!: How to Identify and Avoid a Driver Under the Influence (2002) shows you how to avoid drunk drivers by their behaviors before it’s too late. Douglas Thorburn.
Printed Resources – Research and Alcoholism
Alcoholism: Genetic Culpability or Social Irresponsibility? (2000) examines the concepts, rationale, and research findings of various aspects of alcoholism and places them into two camps, namely the genetic and the social. It then goes on to deal with the issue of “social irresponsibility” as a central feature in alcohol abuse.
Alcoholism: A Review of it Characteristics, Etiology, Treatment and Controversies (1999) provides an accurate picture of the current state of research and treatment effectiveness in the field of alcoholism. Irving Maltzman.
Handbook of Alcoholism Treatment (2nd Edition) (1995) is a summary of treatment research and considered the authoritative text on best practices for alcoholism treatment. Reid K. Hester, William R. Miller.
The Natural History of Alcoholism Revisited (1995) has been acclaimed as one of the most important contributions to the literature on alcoholism since the first edition of Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book. George E. Vaillant.
For more information on research see the Addiction Research section.
Printed Resources – Testimonials on Alcoholism
I’ll Cry Tomorrow (1945) is the autobiographical story of Hollywood actress Lillian Roth. Lillian Roth.
The Thinking Person’s Guide to Sobriety (2000) is a story of struggle and triumph over alcohol addiction. Bert Pluymen.
Addiction Websites Specific to Alcohol
Alcohol in Australia
Alcohol Concern (UK)
Alcohol Policy Information System
Alcohol Rehab Guide
Ensuring Solutions to Alcohol Problems
Institute of Alcohol Studies
Leadership to Keep Children Alcohol Free
Low Risk Drinking Guidelines
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
SAMHSA’s National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information
The Underage Drinking Research Initiative
See the Drugs Information section for additional government addiction websites.
Online Resources – General Information on Alcohol
Alcohol Pharmacology (2004) includes detailed information on alcohol and neurochemistry. Intoxicon International.
The Basics: Alcohol (February 2005) is a 2-page info sheet providing basic information including effects of alcohol. Addiction Foundation of Manitoba (AFM).
Online Resources – Aboriginals and Alcohol
Alcohol Problems and Approaches: Theories, Evidence and Northern Practice (June 2004) provides essential information about alcohol problems, theories about causes and evidence-based best practices in alcohol problem treatment and prevention. National Aboriginal Health Organization.
For more information on aboriginals refer to the Special Populations section.
Online Resources – Alcohol Addiction and Alcohol
See alcoholism below.
Online Resources – Alcoholism and Alcohol
According to The Disease Concept of Alcoholism by Elvin Morton Jellinek, alcoholism can be categorized by types of alcoholism (binge drinking, maintenance drinking, etc.) and phases of alcoholism (pre-alcoholic, prodromal, crucial, etc.).
For more information on alcoholism refer to the Alcoholism Treatment: What is It? Section.
Online Resources – Binge Drinking and Alcohol
The Basics: Binge Drinking (February 2005) contains basic information on alcohol binge drinking. Addiction Foundation of Manitoba (AFM).
The Binge Drinking Fact Sheet (December 2003) describes what binge drinking is, looks at the associated health and social effects and examines what can be done to combat binge drinking. IAS, UK.
Binge Drinking and Europe (July 2007) is a comprehensive research report of binge drinking in Europe. Institute of Alcohol Studies. London, UK.
Binge Drinking – Medical and Social Consequences (September 2007) reviews the medical and social problems associated with binge drinking.Institute of Alcohol Studies, UK. IAS Fact Sheet.
Binge Drinking in the UK and on the Continent(2004) Health Development Agency,ISBN 1-84279-280-6.
Preventing Heavy Episodic Drinking Among Youth and Young Adults: A Literature Review (March 2005) reviews binge drinking among youth and young adults aged 15 to 29, and on strategies that have been shown to decrease the prevalence of heavy episodic drinking. Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission (AADAC).
Online Resources – Consumer Labeling and Alcohol
Consumer Labeling and Alcoholic Drinks (July 2007) Institute of Alcohol Studies. London, UK.
Online Resources – Drug Policy and Alcohol
Key messages emerging from the National Thematic Workshop on Alcohol Policy (November 2004) discusses a national approach to substance abuse and addiction in Canada. Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA).
For more information on drug policy see the Drug Policy section.
Online Resources – Economic Consequences of Alcohol
International Guidelines for the Estimation of the Avoidable Costs of Substance Abuse (November 2006) is part of an international initiative to develop sound methodologies and approaches for estimating the socioeconomic avoidable costs of substance abuse. Health Canada.
A Sound Investment: Identifying and Treating Alcohol Problems (April 2003) suggests that the economic costs of not treating alcohol problems far exceed the costs of providing alcoholism treatment. Ensuring Solutions to Alcohol Problems, George Washington University Medical Center.
Online Resources – Epilepsy and Alcohol
Epilepsy and Alcohol Fact Sheet answers questions for those with epilepsy considering alcohol. Epilepsy Toronto.
Online Resources – History of Alcohol Use in America
Historical Resources on Alcohol Use in America provides a selected list of historical materials on alcohol/drug use in America. Rutgers Center of Alcohol Studies.
Online Resources – Impaired Driving and Alcohol
Alcohol Interlocks as a Condition of Licence Reinstatement (September 2003) discusses the issues concerning the use of interlock programs as a mandatory condition of licence reinstatement in Canada. Traffic Injury Research Foundation.
New Year, Old Myths, New Fatalities highlights the myths about drinking and driving and alcohol-related traffic fatalities on New Year’s Eve. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). NIH Publication 07-5639.
Alcohol – Related Traffic Deaths is a fact sheet showing statistics on impaired driving in the United States. National Institutes of Health.
Canada’s Blood Alcohol Laws – an International Perspective (2009) was commissioned to give assistance to government decision makers, stakeholders and the public, in interpreting international trends relating to permissible blood alcohol concentration for those operating motor vehicles. Canada Safety Council
Facts on Driving While Impaired explains blood alcohol content and impaired driving. Rutgers University Center of Alcohol Studies.
Reducing Drinking and Driving in Europe (July 2007) is a comprehensive research report on impaired driving in Europe. Institute of Alcohol Studies. London, UK.
Online Resources – Medical Consequences of Alcohol
Alcohol and Injury in Emergency Departments (2007) is a summary of the report from the WHO Collaborative Study on Alcohol and Injuries. World Health Organization (WHO).
Cardiovascular Effects of Alcohol shows the medical effects of alcohol on the heart. S. Zakhari, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
Facts On Medical Consequences of Alcohol shows how alcohol consumption can lead to accidental injury, cancer, liver damage, etc. Rutgers University Center of Alcohol Studies.
Online Resources – Moderation Drinking and Alcohol
Low Risk Drinking Guidelines Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).
Reducing Alcohol-Related Harm in Canada: Toward a Culture of Moderation (April 2007) are recommendations for a national alcohol strategy in Canada. These recommendations are designed to reduce the negative health impacts of alcohol consumption and address its contribution to injury and chronic disease. National Alcohol Strategy Working Group.
Tips for Cutting Down on Drinking is a 2-page document on ways to reduce alcohol-related problems. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). NIH Publication 07-3769.
Online Resources – Overdose and Alcohol
Alcohol Overdose (2004) provides information on how alcohol kills and an action plan. Intoxicon International.
For more information refer to the Overdose First Aid section.
Online Resources – Parenting and Alcohol
Make a Difference: Talk to Your Child About Alcohol (2006) is a guide for parents and guardians of young people ages 10 to 14. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). NIH Publication 06-4314.
For more information on teen addiction prevention see the School Drug Abuse section.
Online Resources – Poisoning and Alcohol
Alcohol Poisoning (2004) explains how alcohol kills, how much alcohol is lethal, symptoms of alcohol poisoning, and what you should do. Intoxicon International.
For more information refer to the Overdose First Aid section.
Online Resources – Pregnancy and Alcohol
Drinking during pregnancy can result in damage to the fetus, known as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder (FASD). Refer to the Special Populations section.
Online Resources – Prescription Drugs and Alcohol
Harmful Interactions: Mixing Alcohol with Medicines discusses the dangers of mixing alcohol with prescription and over-the counter drugs. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. NIH Publication 03-5329.
For more information on prescription drugs see the Prescription Drugs section.
Online Resources – Prevention and Alcohol
Keep Kids Alcohol Free: Strategies for Action (August 2005) The Leadership to Keep Children Alcohol Free. NIH Publication 01-4780.
Prevention of alcohol misuse (2005) is a summary of work in progress on the second edition of the Health Development Agency’s Evidence Briefing, Prevention and Reduction of Alcohol Misuse. Health Development Agency. ISBN 1-84279-415-9.
Prevention and Reduction of Alcohol Misuse: Evidence Briefing (June 2005) is a review of reviews about the prevention and reduction of alcohol misuse. Seta Waller, Bhash Naidoo, Betsy Thom. Health Development Agency, UK.
For more alcohol prevention information for both schools and the workplace see the Addiction Prevention Resources section.
Online Resources – Research and Alcohol
Alcohol Dependence (Alcoholism) Is a fact sheet that highlights research on alcohol treatment. National Institutes of Health.
Alcohol Use and Misuse (February 2007) is a summary of research on alcohol use and misuse in Canada. Canadian Medical Association Journal.
Alcoholism: The Science Made Easy (2004) has over 100 articles on alcoholism research. Addiction Technology Transfer Center (ATTC).
How Does Alcohol Affect the World of a Child? (December 2007) provides research on how alcohol affects children. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). NIH Publication 99-4670.
Report: Alcohol in Europe Health-EU.
For additional research on alcohol see the Alcohol Use, Binge Drinking, and Alcohol Dependence section of the Office of Applied Studies website, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
For more information on addiction research see the Addiction Research section.
Online Resources – Screening and Alcohol
Screening is the process of determining whether you may require help for a particular problem.
If you are looking for more addiction tests for you or a significant other, see the Addiction Test section. For more general information on screening see the Addiction Screen, Brief Intervention, and Assessment Facts section.
(1) Source: Join Together, a project of Boston University School of Public Health
(2) Source: Dr. Reid Hester
Online Resources – Seniors and Alcohol
See Seniors in the Special Population section.
Online Resources – Underage Drinking and Alcohol
Underage Drinking (September 2004) is a problem-oriented guide for police officers. Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS).
What Are Kids Drinking? (2006) examines the types of alcoholic beverage that are typically consumed by adolescents in Ontario. Population Studies, eBulletin, Vol. 7, No. 4, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health,
Parents: Help Your Teens Party Right at Gradulation (May 2005) recommends that parents talk to their children before the grad party. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). NIH Publication 05-5641.
For more research on underage drinking see the Underage Drinking section of the Office of Applied Studies, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
Online Resources – The Workplace and Alcohol
Alcohol and the Workplace (July 1999) explains that there are several factors that contribute to problem drinking in the workplace. Employers can mitigate some of these factors and motivate employees to seek help for alcohol problems. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), Alcohol Alert, No. 44.
For more workplace information see the Workplace Substance Abuse section.
Video Resources – Video Education on Alcohol
Encyclopedia Brittania has a video on how alcohol is made and how it effects the body called Alcohol and the Human Body. Although the video is in black and white, the information remains valid:
The following is a middle-aged woman’s testimonial about being an alcoholic:
Video Resources – Movies on Alcoholism
Starring: Dudley Moore as Arthur Bach, Liza Minnelli as Linda Marolla, John Gielgud as Hobson, Geraldine Fitzgerald as Martha Bach.
Director: Steve Gordon
Starring: James Stewart as Elwood P. Dowd, Josephine Hull as Veta Louise Simmons.
Director: Henry Koster
I’ll Cry Tomorrow (1955) tells the story of Lillian Roth. Deprived of a normal childhood by her ambitious mother, Katie (Jo Van Fleet), Lillian Roth (Susan Hayward) becomes a star of Broadway and Hollywood before she is twenty. Shortly before her marriage to her childhood sweetheart, David Tredman (Ray Danton), he dies and Lillian takes her first drink of many down the road of becoming an alcoholic. Director: Daniel Mann
Starring: Susan Hayward as Lillian Roth, Richard Conte as Tony Bardeman,
Eddie Albert as Burt McGuire, Jo Van Fleet as Katie Roth
The Lost Weekend (1945) tells the story of unsuccessful writer Don Birnham is an alcoholic. Only his brother Wick and girlfriend Helen managed to keep him sober for 10 days and plan a little vacation on the countryside for the weekend. But Don manages to send them both away the evening before. Alone at home, without any money, he’s desperate for something to drink.
Director: Billy Wilder
Starring: Ray Milland as Don Birnam, Jane Wyman as Helen St. James, Phillip Terry as Wick Birnmam
Tender Mercies (1983)
Director: Bruce Beresford
Starring: Robert Duvall as Mac Sledge, Tess Harper as Rosa Lee, Betty Buckley as Dixie Scott, Ellen Barkin as Sue Anne.
Walk the Line (2005)
Director: James Mangold
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash, Reese Witherspoon as June Carter, Ginnifer Goodwin as Vivian Cash.