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Substance Use

Alcohol information for youth

​​​​​​​​​​​​What does alcohol do to my body?

Alcohol is a drug that enters your bloodstream through your stomach and intestine. Once in the bloodstream, it is carried to other parts of your body quite quickly. It reaches the brain almost immediately. 

The brain is your body's control centre, so alcohol has a big impact on the way we behave. The more alcohol in the blood, the greater the impact. Alcohol affects your judgment, inhibitions, reaction time, co-ordination, vision, speech, balance, walking, and standing. It increases your risk of harming yourself and others, like through injuries and violence.

Alcohol can also increase your risk for many serious health problems, like heart disease, stroke, and several types of cancers including cancers of the mouth and throat, breast, colon, and liver.

Alcohol stays in the body until it is broken down by your liver. It eventually leaves the body through breath, sweat, and urine. 

What does alcohol do to my mood?

It’s hard to know how people will act after drinking alcohol. A lot depends on the person’s mood and where they are drinking. After a couple of drinks, one person might be more relaxed, another might be depressed,​ and another might be angry. If you are depressed, you might feel even worse after drinking alcohol.

What is the fastest way to sober up?

There isn't one. Cold showers, black coffee, and other remedies people might try do not work. The only thing that helps to sober up is time, because your liver needs time to break down and eliminate the alcohol from your body.

How long does it take to get rid of the effects of alcohol?

It takes approximately 1.5 hours for the body to break down one standard drink. If you drink faster than your body can eliminate the alcohol, it builds up in your blood, which causes you to become intoxicated. Drinking too much alcohol in a short period of time is very dangerous because your body cannot get rid of it fast enough. This can lead to alcohol poisoning (overdose)​.

Is it dangerous to take other drugs with alcohol?

Yes. It is important to be very careful about mixing 2 kinds of drugs. Alcohol is a drug, and some other drugs cause serious problems when used with alcohol.

One of the greatest dangers in combining alcohol with other drugs is that the effects are not always possible to predict.

If you are taking medicines, talk to your healthcare provider before drinking alcohol.​

How can I be safer if I am planning to drink?

  • Eat before and while you are drinking.
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Drink slowly. For every drink of alcohol, drink one non-alcoholic drink.
  • ​Make a plan before you drink to count your drinks and set a limit.
  • Never leave your drink unattended.
  • Stay with friends and look out for each other.
  • Do not drink alone.
  • If someone passes out, do not leave them alone. Understand what alcohol poisoning (overdose) looks like, and if you see signs, call 911.
  • Do not drink and drive or be in a vehicle with a driver who has been drinking.
  • Plan ahead to make sure you have a safe ride home.

If you are worried about your own or someone else's drinking, call Health Link at 811 to find an addiction services office near you. ​

Current as of: May 12, 2023

Author: Addiction & Mental Health, Alberta Health Services