Alcohol and chronic pain

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teen boys drinking alcohol

A lot of young people face the personal decision about whether to start drinking even before they reach the legal age to drink. Before you make that decision, it helps to get as much information as you can.

How alcohol affects your body

When a person drinks alcohol, it is absorbed into their bloodstream and carried throughout their body.

Alcohol can have both depressant and stimulant effects.

  • Its depressant effects slow down the functioning of your brain and spinal cord. These effects can make you lose coordination, slur your speech and take longer to respond to things.
  • Its stimulant effects raise your heart rate and blood pressure, interfering with your ability to have a deep and restful night of sleep. They can also make you either very friendly and talkative, or angry and aggressive.

You probably already know that drinking a lot of alcohol can leave you with a hangover the next day.

Mixing alcohol and energy drinks

Many teens and young adults are tempted to mix alcohol with energy drinks. This can be extremely dangerous, causing a severely increased heart rate, which usually requires an emergency trip to the hospital.

Longer-term effects of alcohol

  • Alcohol can interact with your pain medications. This can lead to serious health problems such as liver damage. It is important to communicate with your doctor about the risks of consuming alcohol with your medications.
  • Drinking regularly can reduce your ability to study well and concentrate, leading to problems at school and work.
  • Alcohol use can impair your judgment and lower your inhibitions, leading you to do embarrassing things or engage in risky behaviour such as having unprotected sex, drinking and driving or injuring yourself when drunk.
  • The legal age to drink in most Canadian provinces is 19. Drinking when underage can lead to trouble with the law. According to the National Crime Prevention Centre, young people who drink are also more likely to get into fights and commit crimes than those who do not.
  • Drinking alcohol regularly can lead to addiction, particularly if you drink alcohol to numb the pain sensations, or if you drink alone.
  • Drinking large amounts of alcohol in a short time period can lead to alcohol poisoning. This is exactly what it sounds like – the body is poisoned by a large amount of alcohol. Vomiting is usually the first symptom of alcohol poisoning. Extreme sleepiness, unconsciousness, difficulty breathing, low blood sugar levels, seizures and even death may also result. Get medical help immediately if you suspect someone has alcohol poisoning.
Last updated: May 2nd 2016