Alcohol and Youth

As a parent, you have a big impact on your youth's behaviour. According to Parent Action on Drugs (PDF), almost 5 out of 6 youth aged 10 to 18 years said that parents were their leading influence on drinking behaviour. 

Alcohol is the most commonly used drug in Ottawa. Many Ottawa youth are either curious about alcohol or already consuming it underage. In 2013, fewer Ottawa students reported alcohol use than in 2009, however almost half of grade 7 to 12 students in Ottawa reported drinking alcohol at least once in the past year.

Underage drinking is a concern; the home is the number one location where underage youth get alcohol. Two out of three Ottawa youth reported it would be easy to get alcohol if they wanted some.

Is alcohol harmful to youth?
For youth, there are no health benefits to drinking. Alcohol is the most widely used drug among youth. It interferes with normal brain development that happens during the teen years; the brain is not fully developed until at least 25 years of age. The earlier the youth start drinking, the more potential problems they may have later in life. Delaying the start of alcohol use is the best choice. 
Should I lock up the alcohol in the house?

Be aware of how much alcohol, medications and drugs you have in your home   About one in ten (12%*) of Ottawa youth who have consumed alcohol in the past year reported they usually take it from home.  Depending upon the age of your children, you will put different measures in place to keep your children safe.

As a general rule, keep substances locked up and/or out of sight. Check on them periodically.  Read more information on how to secure your medications away from younger children.

Can my 18-year-old drink at home?
In Ontario, the legal age to buy or drink in a public location is 19 years of age. As a parent you may offer your own teen alcohol in your home, however be aware that alcohol can harm their developing brains. 
My teen is already drinking, what should I do?
Be clear about your feelings and expectations. Underage drinking can have serious health and injury consequences. Talk openly to them and try to understand how much, where and when they are drinking. Encourage them to limit the amount they drink, when and where. Drinking should occur in a safe environment, under parental guidance and at low levels (ie. 1-2 standard drinks just once or twice per week). 
Is binge drinking harmful? 
Yes, drinking a lot of alcohol in a short time is harmful to your health.  It can lead to making bad decisions, fighting or alcohol poisoning, which can be life threatening. Overtime, binge drinking can lead to physical, emotional, mental and social problems. Binge drinking could be a sign of a developing drinking problem.

Alcohol Poisoning 

Drinking a large amount of alcohol in a short time can lead to alcohol poisoning. Alcohol poisoning is considered a drug overdose. If you see these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately:

  • Blue, cold, clammy skin.
  • Vomiting and not waking up.
  • Not moving, cannot be woken up.
  • Slowed breathing.
  • Loss of bladder and bowel control.
How do I talk to my youth about drinking?
  • Get informed first.
  • Keep the conversation friendly.

    • Find out where your teen is going and with whom. Spend quality time together. 
  • Ask them what they know first.

    • Talk about the effects and risks of drinking or drug use, but more importantly, listen to what their thoughts are. Don’t wait!  
  • Be clear about rules that are not negotiable.

    • Tell them what you expect from them, regardless of whether you believe they will listen. Talk about family rules and what happens if those rules are broken.  
  • Get to know their social networks.

    • Connect with their friends’ parents if they spend a lot of their time at their homes.
What can I do as a parent?
  • Be a role model - your attitudes and behaviours impact your children.
  • Keep talking to them, don't wait! By grade 9, most students have opinions about alcohol.
  • Help your youth delay drinking until they are older is the healthiest choice.

  • Don't get discouraged! There is good news:

    • Across Ontario young teens are waiting longer before they try alcohol.
    • A supportive family has shown to delay alcohol use which later in life may decrease the amount they drink.
  • Parents of new drivers should know the laws and restrictions for young drivers.
Where do I go for help? 

If you are concerned about yourself or someone else, talk with your health care provider or check out the Mental Health and Substance Use Resource List in Ottawa.

Learn more about building resiliency and how to have THAT talk about mental health. 

Do you have more questions about parenting?

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