Know the law. In Ontario, it’s illegal to buy or possess alcohol if you’re under 19. It’s also illegal for
any individual to supply alcohol to minors. They risk a fine of up to $200,000 and up to a year in jail. So, if you’re underage and ask someone to buy alcohol for you, not only do they risk severe penalties, but you’re also asking them to put your health and safety at risk.
Steer clear of drinking and driving. No amount of alcohol is OK if you intend to drive or to get a ride with someone who’s been drinking. Even small amounts can affect your judgement, vision and co-ordination – and the results can be deadly. Instead, plan ahead of time to take a bus or a cab, stay over, or call a family member or friend for a ride.
In Ontario, the legal blood alcohol limit is .08. This limit, sometimes referred to as blood alcohol concentration or BAC, is also expressed as 80 mg/100 mL of blood. Drivers who provide a sample over .08 or refuse a breath test lose their licences immediately for 90 days. New Ontario drivers in the Graduated Licensing System must maintain zero BAC while driving. If not, they face a 30-day licence suspension and a fine. This is on top of any criminal charges in court.
Be aware of the risks. Drinking at any age increases your risk of injury. Car crashes, falls, burns, drowning and suicide have all been linked to alcohol. Because drinking impairs your judgement, it also increases your chances of taking part in other dangerous activities, such as getting into a car with someone who’s been drinking, and unwanted and/or unprotected sex, which puts you at risk of pregnancy and exposure to HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Keep your edge. Alcohol can ruin your looks, make you fall behind in school, hurt your sports performance and make you gain weight. Even if others say it’s the cool thing to do, the real deal is that drinking makes you lose your edge.
Stay smart. Drinking not only endangers your health, it might lead to alcohol dependency. It can cause your grades to suffer, your family relationships to deteriorate, and your social life to fall apart. Not to mention leading to trouble with the law, possibly hurting someone else or causing you to lose your driver’s licence – in some cases permanently. Is it really worth it?
Size doesn’t count. A 12-oz. beer (5% alc./vol.), a 5-oz. glass of wine (12% alc./vol.) and one mixed drink with 1.5 oz. of spirits (40% alc./vol.) – standard serving sizes – all contain the same amount of alcohol.
Don’t go for quantity. Binge-drinking is defined as consuming five or more drinks in one sitting. Too much alcohol in a short time can not only cause permanent damage, but it can also lead to alcohol poisoning, which can kill you.
Stand up to pressure. You know better than to believe the claims that alcohol means glamour and adventure. You know it’s a lot of hype. Friends who fall for it and claim drinking is cool may have other problems they’re trying to mask or forget by drinking. Even if others are pressuring you to join them in drinking underage, you always have choices. For instance, you can simply say no, or that you don’t want to break the law, that drinking sucks, that it makes you sick, that it makes you act dumb, that you find drinking boring, or that you have to leave. Be prepared. If they continue to pressure you, you might want to seek out friends you have more in common with.
Don’t kid yourself. Drinking at home is no excuse to drink if you’re underage. And sticking to beer doesn’t make drinking any safer. Alcohol has the same effects no matter where you are or what you drink. It’s still a drug that can put your health and safety at risk. Don’t tell yourself that just because your group has a designated driver, it’s a good excuse for you to drink.
Watch out for lethal mixes. Even one drink can cause problems when you’re taking medication or if you have a medical condition that’s sensitive to alcohol. Ask your doctor or pharmacist what effects alcohol could have on you before taking chances. As well, never get into a car or other vehicle with a driver who’s been drinking.
Be a good friend. If you know someone who may have a drinking problem, talk to them about your concerns. Urge your friend to get help. Besides offering to listen, suggest they talk to a trusted family member, a teacher, their doctor or a professional counsellor.
Recognize the warning signs. When adults drink responsibly, it should never interfere with their health, work, studies, relationships, safety or the safety of others. Problem drinkers, on the other hand, may often be late for work, have arguments with friends or family, develop health concerns, or be charged with impaired driving. Other warning signs include: looking for excuses to drink; drinking to deal with stress or anger; trying to cut down or stop, but failing; binge-drinking; blacking out when drinking; sneaking drinks; gulping drinks; lying about how much they drink; hiding a supply of alcohol; drinking in the morning; and getting angry when accused of drinking too much. People who are having trouble dealing with drinking, whether it’s theirs or someone else’s, should definitely seek help – there’s a lot out there. They should start by talking to a trusted friend, family member, teacher, doctor, or professional counsellor. They may also want to look up Alcoholics Anonymous in their local phone book for information on the support services it provides. The Drug and Alcohol Registry of Treatment has a toll-free number – 1-800-565-8603 – with information on treatment services in your community. As well, Kids Help Phone provides anonymous and confidential counselling, information and referral services in English and French, 24 hours a day, every day of the year, at 1-800-668-6868.
Adapted with permission from the American Academy of Pediatrics’ “About Alcohol: Ten Tips for Teens” © 2000 – American Academy of Pediatrics
For more information, contact:
LCBO Social Responsibility Department
Tel: 416 864-6820
Fax: 416 864-2431