We all need to relax and live moments of pleasure. To be able to experience cherished moments with friends, to have fun and to experience new things; all of these help us learn more about ourselves and feel good. In our society, alcohol consumption is often associated to social activities, such as parties for example. For the majority of the population, consuming alcohol will not create a dependence. Being well-educated about the topic helps us to drink in a well-thought and peaceful way.
Alcohol usage in our society
Wine, beer, and spirits are socially accepted as being commonly consumed alcohols. In fact, about 80% of Canadians consume alcoholic beverages. Alcohol is legally sold, but it remains a substance that is considered psychoactive. This means that it influences our bodily state, our mood, our mental activity as well as our behaviour.
Alcohol rapidly mixes with blood and numbs the brain. That is what creates this sensation of relaxation and pleasure, but also simultaneously imbalances the body’s coordination and behaviour. Under the influence of alcohol, humans sometimes act differently than if they had been sober.
These effects on our physical and mental state can bring upon dependence. It is called the ‘alcohol use disorder’, which characterizes excessive alcohol usage having great consequences on health and social life.
Alcohol statistics among youth in Quebec in 2019:
- 58% of youth in high school have already consumed alcohol throughout their lives
- 214 Quebecers aged 12-24 are brought to the ER each month because of alcohol intoxication
Causes of troubles with alcohol usage
There are multiple reasons that may cause troubles with alcohol usage. There exists many factors that promote excessive alcohol consumption among youth:
- The search for extreme sensations;
- The will to push one’s own tolerance and limits;
- Social pressure;
- Wanting to fit in;
- Wanting to battle against something upsetting related to school, family, or friends;
- A way of fighting against problems in relationships.
There also exists extreme alcoholic consumption practices that young people are presented to under social pressure. ‘Chugging’ for example involves drinking as fast as one can, in order to test their limits. This practice can trigger a dangerous intoxication, and even death.
Finally, alcoholic products influence a ‘rewards mechanism’ in the brain that incite the body to drink again. This effect is common with drugs and participates in the increase of doses one consumes. However, increasing the quantities of alcohol consumed and casual drinking can create a habituation. The body will then need higher and higher levels in order to create the original rewarding effect in their brain. This phenomenon is called ‘tolerance’ and contributes to alcohol addiction.
It is important to note that alcoholism or alcohol use disorder is recognized as a medical condition.
Consequences of prolonged alcohol use
Prolonged alcohol use has consequences on the user’s health and social life. There are many risks and even more when it affects young people, as they have not fully developed yet. The person’s entourage will also be affected.
Here are some major health consequences:
- Heart diseases and blood pressure problems;
- Brain and nerve damage;
- Risks of stomach ulcers, mouth, throat and stomach cancers;
- Loose and weakened muscles;
- Risks of cirrhosis and liver cancer;
- Risks of impotence and infertility.
Here are some major social consequences:
- Changes in behaviour accompanied by impaired judgement, anger, or nervousness;
- A tendency to isolate or to close oneself off, accompanied by difficulties with self-affirmation;
- A decrease in self-esteem.
These consequences lead to a decrease in quality of life and increase difficulties in facing everyday problems. They can sometimes even cause one to stop showing up to school and even fully dropping out. Tensions with one’s entourage and close ones are often increased as well.
Youth that drink alcohol excessively need support and understanding in order to understand what is at the origin of their behaviour. They face many challenges, and social pressure can become burdensome.
It is important as a parent to show your care and to watch over them. This helps youth feel confident, and more importantly that they are not alone with their worries and problems.
If you have any suspicions concerning yours or a youth’s alcohol consumption or someone who needs help, you can find support. Specialized services are available via phone 24h on 24h such as Drugs: Help and references.
LOVE supports youth to thrive through programs and healthy relationships that build emotional intelligence and help overcome the challenges they face. Our participants emerge from LOVE’s programs with greater resilience, heightened skills, and the confidence to be inspirational leaders.