Alcohol and Your Health

Last revised: January 3, 2023

Alcohol can affect a person’s health. Physical, mental, emotional, and social issues can increase when someone uses alcohol at an early age, in large amounts and often, and with other medication or substances (drugs).

When pregnant, planning to be pregnant or breastfeeding it is safest not to drink alcohol. Visit the Parenting In Ottawa Safe Pregnancy and Breastfeeding/Chestfeeding pages for more information.

How Does Alcohol Affect my Health?

There can be short-term risks of drinking alcohol. These include slowed reaction time, impaired judgment and decision making. Drinking a lot of alcohol in a short time makes it difficult for a person’s body to get rid of the alcohol. Too much alcohol could lead to an alcohol overdose (also known as alcohol poisoning). Learn more about binge drinking.  

Consuming alcohol is considered a risk factor. Some risks can include unintentional injuries, violence, and other health problems. Health problems can include heart disease, inflammation of the gastrointestinal system, and cancer. Some people can also develop alcohol dependency, or an alcohol use disorder.

Mixing Alcohol with Other Substances (Drugs)

Mixing alcohol with medications, caffeine or other substances can have negative effects. Using more than one substance at a time can increase impairment. This means consuming alcohol, cannabis, or other substances at the same time which can result in unpredictable changes to how a person thinks, feels, and acts.

Mixing drinks that have alcohol with a caffeinated beverage is not recommended. It can be harder for people to recognize the signs of impairment like feeling tired. This could result in people drinking more alcohol which increases risks. Risks can include dehydration, alcohol poisoning, and alcohol related injury or death. 

Alcohol and Cancer

Alcohol is linked to many types of cancer. For example, cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, larynx and esophagus, colon and rectum, as well as liver and pancreas. The more a person drinks, the higher their risk of cancer. The type of alcohol does not matter. The Canadian Cancer Society recommends to reduce the amount of alcohol you consume.

Find out My CancerIQ and steps you can take to help reduce your cancer risk.

Alcohol and Heart Disease

Alcohol is a risk factor for heart disease, including heart attacks, high blood pressure, and stroke.

Alcohol and Violence

Mental and physical functioning can be affected after drinking moderate amounts of alcohol. Alcohol use can reduce self-control, and the ability to process information. Alcohol usecan also lead to misjudging situations and overreacting.

Some people can also become more emotional or impulsive. This can increase the risk of making poor decisions.

Alcohol is often associated with aggressive and even violent behaviour. This can include intimate partner violence, sexual assault and violence between people. It can also be associated with child abuse, or neglect.

Even people who drink moderate amounts of alcohol can show aggressive behaviors. For more information about Alcohol and aggression and violence visit Update of Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines: Overview of Reviews of the Association Between Alcohol Use and Aggression and Violence, 2022.

Are you questioning your relationship with Alcohol?

Support is available. Visit:  

  •, a simple new single point of entry to eastern Ontario’s system of care for mental health and addictions
  •, a simple way for children, youth, and families to access the right mental health and addiction care, at the right time.

For more information on resources, programming and treatment on mental health and substance use health, please visit the Mental Health, Addictions and Substance Use Health Services and Resources webpage.
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