Alcoholism in Canada

Alcohol is the most commonly used, misused, and abused substance in Canada. In 2012, about 5 million Canadians over 15 years of age met the criteria for alcohol dependence. There has also been an increase in alcohol-related deaths and hospital admissions over the last few years. 

Alcoholism affects people of all ages, especially adults over 18 years of age. Moderate drinking is defined as one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. While drinking in moderation is a normal part of Canadian society, risky drinking can also develop. Alcohol consumption also increases the risk of violence, crimes, conflicts, sexual assault, and car accidents. 

Family influences, social settings, and peer pressure can all influence alcohol consumption. For example, if a child’s family members regularly drink alcohol, they can influence the child’s motives for drinking as they grow up. 

stat

Alcohol Abuse Statistics in Canada

  • In 2013, almost 80 percent of the Canadian population drank alcohol in the past year. 
  • The highest percentage of past-year drinkers were those between 30 and 34 years old.
  • Between 2015 and 2016, there were 77,000 alcohol-related hospitalizations in Canada.
  • In 2002, almost 2 percent (4,258) of all deaths in Canada were caused by alcohol.
  • Risky alcohol use by underage drinkers is declining in Canada, but many children 12 years of age and older still regularly abuse alcohol.
risks

Risks of Binge Drinking & Underage Drinking in Canada

Binge drinking is when someone drinks a large amount of alcohol in one sitting. This form of drinking puts people at risk of becoming dependent on alcohol. Heavy alcohol use is defined as binge drinking five or more times a month.

You must be at least 18 years old to purchase and drink alcohol in Alberta, Manitoba, and Québec. The minimum drinking age is 19 in the rest of Canada. Drinking alcohol before 18 or 19 can be extremely dangerous. Some risk factors associated with underage drinking in Canada include:

  • Poor drinking habits and an increased risk of developing alcoholism over time
  • More likely to participate in risky or illegal behaviors
  • Higher chance of developing a mental health disorder, such as depression or panic disorder
  • Decreased performance in school or at work
  • Irregular brain development 

About 19 percent of children (12 years of age and older) are considered heavy drinkers in Canada. This is roughly 5.8 million people. 

alcohol

Symptoms of Alcoholism

Alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence, and alcoholism are all terms for alcohol use disorder (AUD). The main difference between these three terms is how they impact a person’s daily life. 

Common symptoms of alcoholism include:

  • Drinking alcohol instead of participating in normal activities
  • The inability to reduce or stop drinking alcohol 
  • Developing withdrawal symptoms after stopping alcohol use (e.g., alcohol shakes)
  • Money and legal issues
  • Physical symptoms, such as fever, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, headaches, and weight loss
  • Frequent mood swings
  • Binge drinking more than four times a month
  • Loss of interest in previous work, activities, and hobbies
  • Showing more aggression toward loved ones 
  • Not attending work or school 
  • Mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and panic disorder
treatment

Treatment Options for Alcoholism in Canada

People tend to seek treatment for alcoholism when the negative effects of drinking become overwhelming. They may also seek treatment after an intervention with family and close friends.

Treatment can be helpful for any situation, even if your loved one is struggling with mild alcohol addiction. Entering addiction treatment early can be effective in identifying triggers before the problem gets worse. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are also less severe in mild cases of alcoholism, which reduces the chance of relapse after treatment.  

There are many treatment options available for alcohol use disorder (alcoholism) in Canada. Some addiction treatment options include, but are not limited to:

Interventions for Alcohol Addiction

If your loved one is addicted to alcohol, the first step may be to stage an intervention. It is essential to avoid confronting them about the problem without professional help. 

An intervention is a carefully planned meeting that includes the family and friends of the person struggling with alcoholism. A doctor or professional addiction counselor is there to lead the session and address any issues that arise. 

After the intervention, the individual will receive an offer to undergo treatment at an inpatient or outpatient rehab facility. 

Inpatient or Outpatient Rehab

People with minor to moderate cases of alcoholism may benefit from outpatient treatment. This rehab program is arranged around the patient’s schedule. They attend treatment a few days a week and do not stay overnight. During the program, patients undergo counseling, therapy, education sessions, and attend support groups.

More severe cases of alcoholism usually require inpatient treatment. This form of treatment takes place at a licensed residential treatment center. Unlike outpatient care, inpatient rehab requires the person to stay overnight for 30, 60, or 90 days. They receive 24-hour comprehensive, structured care. 

Alcohol Support Groups

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is the most well-known support group for those recovering from minor to severe alcoholism. 

During AA meetings, people come together to discuss their trials with alcohol, recovery stories, and relapse stories. These meetings are completely confidential, which creates an open and honest environment for all members. 

Other treatment options and support groups of alcoholism in Canada include:

  • Pharmacological Treatment
  • Case Management
  • Group Therapy
  • Community Treatment
  • SMART Recovery
  • 12 Step Programs

Resources

 

“Alcohol Use Disorder.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 11 July 2018, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alcohol-use-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20369243.

Canada, Public Health Agency of. Government of Canada. 3 Feb. 2016, www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/chief-public-health-officer-reports-state-public-health-canada/2015-alcohol-consumption-canada.html.

“Finding Quality Addiction Care in Canada.” Canadian Centre on Substance Use & Addiction, 2017. https://www.ccsa.ca/sites/default/files/2019-04/CCSA-Addiction-Care-in-Canada-Treatment-Guide-2017-en.pdf

“Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 5 Mar. 2020, www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/treatment-alcohol-problems-finding-and-getting-help.

Updated on: August 6, 2020
Author
Alyssa Hill
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Medically Reviewed
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Annamarie Coy,
BA, CADACII/ICADC, ICPR, MATS
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