Alcohol is the most common substance used by youth.

Alcohol is a psychoactive (mind altering) drug that affects how people think and behave. Alcohol consumption can reduce inhibitions and impact balance, vision, coordination and the ability to make important decisions.

No amount of alcohol is good for your health and the more alcohol consumed, the higher the potential for harm

Alcohol consumption is a leading risk factor for health and social harms for youth. Drink for drink, the risks of drinking are greater for youth than for adults. This is for many reasons, including life experience, emotional maturity and adolescent development.

Harms of adolescent drinking include: injuries, suicide and depression, motor vehicle crashes, aggression, violence and dating violence, poor academic performance, high risk sexual behavior and alcohol poisoning. Some of these can lead to death.

Completely avoiding alcohol is best

Alcohol impacts brain development and the brain continues to develop into a person’s twenties. Delaying the use of alcohol for as long as possible, or choosing not to drink, is the main recommendation for youth.

At any age, alcohol increases the risk for many kinds of cancer

Just like tobacco, alcohol is carcinogenic. It is associated with at least 20 types of cancer and is known to cause at least seven types of cancer (breast, colon, rectum, mouth and throat, liver, esophagus and larynx).

How much are youth drinking?

The 2018 B.C. Adolescent Health Survey found that 44 per cent of B.C. youth had tried alcohol. Girls were more likely than boys to have tried alcohol (45 per cent vs. 43 per cent). This is a change from previous years where there was no gender difference.

The survey also found that 30 per cent of students had more than two drinks at least once in the week before they took the survey, and five per cent did so on at least three days that week.

In addition, 38 per cent consumed five or more drinks within a couple of hours at least once in the past month, and five per cent did so on six or more days.

How can I support my youth to prevent, delay or reduce alcohol use?

  • Have open and honest conversations. Avoid lecturing and judging youth.
  • Seek out factual information to share with youth.
  • If you use alcohol, pay attention to when you drink, why you drink and how much you drink. Have conversations with youth about how they feel about your alcohol use.
  • Encourage youth to delay drinking. Have conversations with youth to see if they are thinking about trying alcohol. Work with them to understand the health benefits of waiting.
  • Let youth know that not everyone chooses to use alcohol. Alcohol is carcinogenic and contributes to significant health and social harm.
  • Have clear, but caring boundaries and family guidelines about alcohol use. Ensure that youth feel safe and supported. For example, let them know you will be there for them to provide a safe ride home if they or their friends do decide to use drugs or alcohol.


Balance and connection in BC: The health and well-being of our youth. Results from the 2018 B.C. Adolescent Health Survey. McCreary Centre Society.

Foundry B.C. offers free and confidential support online and in-person for young people ages 12 to 24. Visit their website for information created for youth, including tips for safer alcohol use.

Canada’s Guidance on Alcohol and Health.

Supporting People Who Use Substances: A brief guide for friends and family. HeretoHelp B.C.


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