Google Translate Disclaimer

Translation on this website is provided by Google Translate, a third-party automated translator tool. The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit assumes no responsibility for the accuracy of translations performed by Google Translate, or for any issues or damages resulting from its use.

Photo of Alcohol
print header


Alcohol and your health

How does alcohol affect my health?

Alcohol is the most used drug in our society. Alcohol is the common name for ethanol or ethyl alcohol, the clear colorless liquid that is the intoxicating substance in alcoholic drinks. 

Alcohol is absorbed into your body through the mouth, stomach, and intestines. Alcohol activates the reward centre in the brain. It also slows down brain functions and thought processes. 

Alcohol’s effects are the same no matter what alcoholic beverage you drink. Any beverage that contains alcohol — beer, wine, cider, spirits carry the same risk of harms.

How it affects you depends on several factors:

  • the amount you drink and how quickly
  • your sex, gender, age, and body size
  • the amount of food you have eaten and/or other substances in your system
  • your overall health

Short-term risks

Alcohol is a drug that can impair judgment and decision making and can have serious consequences. The risk of negative outcomes begins with any alcohol use and consuming more than 2 standard drinks per occasion is associated with a significant increased risk of harms to self and others.

Drinking a lot of alcohol on a single occasion (binge drinking or heavy drinking) may cause you to experience these effects:

  • impaired attention, concentration, and judgement
  • unintentional injuries
  • drowsiness, slow reaction time, blurred vision
  • impulsive, aggressive, and violent behaviour
  • impaired or loss of memory
  • a hangover, or feeling ill, the day following excess alcohol consumption

Severe alcohol intoxication can lead to alcohol poisoning. Critical signs and symptoms of an Alcohol Overdose include:

  • stupor or near unconsciousness
  • unconsciousness
  • unable to act or think normally
  • vomiting
  • slow and/or irregular breathing
  • pale or blueish skin colour

Know the Danger Signs and Act Quickly: Cold showers, hot coffee, or walking it off do not reverse alcohol overdose - Call 911 immediately.

Taking alcohol with cannabis or other drugs (prescription and non-prescription) or energy drinks can have more harmful consequences then using each one alone. Avoid mixing alcohol and other drugs.

Long-Term risks

New evidence shows a direct link between alcohol and a higher risk of certain cancers, and that there are no protective effects of moderate alcohol drinking against heart disease.

Regular heavy consumption of alcohol increases risks of:

To lower these risks individuals must be aware of important information about alcohol and their health. Evidence confirms that drinking less means less harm from alcohol. Canada’s Guidance on Alcohol and Health allows individuals to assess their own level of risk and make informed decisions about their alcohol use.


Any reduction in alcohol use has benefits.

  • If you don't drink, don't start.
  • Set a weekly maximum and try not to exceed it.
  • Drink slowly.
  • Alternate between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
  • Choose alcohol free or low-alcoholic drinks.
  • Eat before and while you’re drinking.
  • Eating well and being active are other ways to improve your health.
  • Know your limits with alcohol and consider assessing your drinking with this practical guide.
  • Where to get help

Alcohol is a carcinogen, a substance that causes cancer. Alcohol is known to cause at least 7 different types of cancer. Cancer is the leading cause of death in Canada. New Canadian data shows that alcohol is linked to almost 7,000 cancer deaths a year. The most common cancers linked to alcohol include:

  • breast cancer
  • colon cancer
  • cancer of the rectum
  • mouth and throat cancers
  • liver cancer
  • cancer of the esophagus
  • cancer of the larynx

Drinking less alcohol is one of the top 10 things you can do to decrease your cancer risk.

To learn more visit:

Alcohol is one of the main causes of liver disease. Liver disease is on the rise in Canada.

Alcohol associated fatty liver, where there is a buildup of fat in the liver can come from drinking a large amount of alcohol even for just a few days. 

Alcohol associated hepatitis, a serious alcohol related liver disease, is generally caused by long-term heavy drinking but can also happen from binge drinking when an individual consumes a large amount of alcohol in a short period of time. 

Continued alcohol related liver disease can eventually lead to the buildup of fibrosis or scar tissue in the liver, which can cause life-threatening liver cirrhosis and liver cancer. 

To learn more visit:

Canadian Liver Foundation

Alcohol use can impair judgment and decision making and increases the risk of an individual exhibiting impulsive, aggressive, and violent behaviour. Most commonly intimate partner violence, male to female sexual violence, and aggression and violence between adults.

Consuming more than 2 standard drinks per occasion significantly increases the risk of harm to self and others. 

Avoiding drinking to intoxication will reduce individuals’ risk of perpetrating alcohol-related violence.
To learn more visit:

Canadian Centre on Substance use and Addiction

Did you find what you were looking for today?
What did you like about this page?
How can we improve this page?

If you have any questions or concerns that require a response, please contact Health Connection directly.

Thanks for your feedback.
Failed to submit comment. Please try submitting again or contact us at the Health Unit.
Comment already submitted ...