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Alcohol

What it is

Alcohol is a psychoactive drug (meaning that it’s mind-altering) that affects the way we think and behave. It’s a depressant, so it also slows down our heart rate, breathing, thoughts and actions. Alcoholic beverages are made from fermented or distilled grains, fruits, or vegetables, and usually contain 5%, 12%, or 40% alcohol.

 

How it’s used

Most Canadians drink alcohol, usually in social situations. As a matter of fact, Canadians consume more than 50% above the world average. Many people who drink moderately say that it enhances the enjoyment of ordinary life. But like other drugs, alcohol can also be harmful.

 

How it affects us

In small amounts, alcohol can make us feel more sociable and talkative. In larger amounts, our inhibitions disappear—so does our balance, vision, coordination and ability to make important decisions.

 

The risks

Even people who normally drink responsibly can drink too much and make poor decisions—like driving while impaired. Over time, drinking large amounts can also cause cirrhosis, where the liver stops functioning properly. Some people can develop alcohol dependence—meaning they need alcohol to cope with daily life. And if we drink too much in a short amount of time, we can develop alcohol poisoning, which affects our breathing, heart rate and gag reflex, and could even lead to coma or death. 

 

Lowering the risk

Don’t drink too much, and be sure to keep track of the number of drinks you’ve had. Drink slowly and alternate between non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages. Eat something before you drink. Don’t drink every day, and set limits on how much you’re going to drink each week. Know the strength of the alcohol you are drinking, and drink only in safe places and times (like with trusted friends) to help minimize alcohol-related harm. Remember, women (on average) can’t drink as much alcohol as men due to differences in their bodies.  

 

When to seek help

Drinking alcohol is a problem when it negatively affects our life or the lives of others.

If your drinking causes significant distress and problems in your daily life, you may have alcohol use disorder. Even a mild disorder can escalate and lead to serious problems, so early treatment is important. If this sounds like you, talk with your doctor. Other ways to get help include talking with a mental health professional or a support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

 

If you're concerned about someone else’s drinking, ask a professional experienced in alcohol treatment for advice on how to approach them.

 

If someone you know is showing signs of alcohol poisoning, roll the person on their side and call 911 immediately. 

 

Tools

Mental Health 101

Knowledge is power. This series of free online tutorials is a starting point for learning about mental health.​ You can come away with a greater understanding of the mental health concern you are interested in knowing more about.

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30 Program(s)

IWK Mental Health and Addictions Program

IWK
This program is not administered by Nova Scotia Health Authority. Program Information may be incorrect and/or out of date. Confirm details with the program provider.

The IWK Mental Health and  Addictions Program provides specialized care throughout the province for children and youth up until their 19th birthday within a patient and family...

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The Marguerite Centre

This program is not administered by Nova Scotia Health Authority. Program Information may be incorrect and/or out of date. Confirm details with the program provider.

The Marguerite Centre provides a holistic, women-centred approach to recovery from substance misuse and gambling addiction. We are an inclusive, safe, non-judgmental...

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Eskasoni Mental Health

This program is not administered by Nova Scotia Health Authority. Program Information may be incorrect and/or out of date. Confirm details with the program provider.

Eskasoni Mental Health Services (EMHS) provides a wide range of services to the Mi’kmaq people of Eskasoni, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. The Tui'kn Residential School Survivor...

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First Nations, Indigenous

Caregivers Nova Scotia

This program is not administered by Nova Scotia Health Authority. Program Information may be incorrect and/or out of date. Confirm details with the program provider.

Caregivers Nova Scotia provides free programs, services, information, and advocacy for family and friend caregivers. We are dedicated to providing recognition and practical assistance to friends and family giving care.

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Caregiver, Family

Kids Help Phone

This program is not administered by Nova Scotia Health Authority. Program Information may be incorrect and/or out of date. Confirm details with the program provider.

Kids Help Phone is Canada’s only 24/7, national support service. We offer professional counselling, information and referrals and volunteer-led, text-based support to young...

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Children / Youth

Alcoholics Anonymous

This program is not administered by Nova Scotia Health Authority. Program Information may be incorrect and/or out of date. Confirm details with the program provider.

Alcoholics Anonymous is an international fellowship of men and women who have had a drinking problem. There are no age or education requirements. Membership is open to anyone...

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Alateen

This program is not administered by Nova Scotia Health Authority. Program Information may be incorrect and/or out of date. Confirm details with the program provider.

Alateen a part of the Al-Anon Family Groups, is a fellowship of young people (mostly teenagers) whose lives have been affected by someone else’s drinking whether they are in...

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Youth
Caregiver, Family

Al-Anon

This program is not administered by Nova Scotia Health Authority. Program Information may be incorrect and/or out of date. Confirm details with the program provider.

Al‑Anon is a mutual support program for people whose lives have been affected by someone else’s drinking. By sharing common experiences and applying the Al-Anon principles...

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Caregiver, Family

211

211
This program is not administered by Nova Scotia Health Authority. Program Information may be incorrect and/or out of date. Confirm details with the program provider.

211 is a free, confidential information and referral service that can connect you to thousands of programs and services offered by local community groups, nonprofits and government departments across Nova Scotia, 24/7.

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Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services - Mental Health Programs and Services

This program is not administered by Nova Scotia Health Authority. Program Information may be incorrect and/or out of date. Confirm details with the program provider.

Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services (CFMWS) is responsible for administering Non-Public Property (NPP) on behalf of the Chief of the Defence Staff and for delivering...

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Canadian Forces, RCMP

Veterans Affairs Canada Assitance Service

This program is not administered by Nova Scotia Health Authority. Program Information may be incorrect and/or out of date. Confirm details with the program provider.

Veterans Affairs provide targeted services and benefits to improve well-being including support and services related to your physical and mental health and wellness.The VAC...

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Canadian Forces, RCMP

Mental Health and Addictions Wellness Program

The Wellness Clinic is an ongoing, client-focused program that is based on what the client or group of clients want to work on that day. There is no waitlist or referral...

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Adults

Health Psychology

Health Psychology offers psychological interventions for those with chronic and acute health conditions. The main focus is on the patient's mental and emotional reaction to an illness or their recovery from an illness.

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Adults

Geriatric Psychiatry Acute Inpatient Unit

The Geriatric Psychiatry Acute Inpatient Unit is for individuals over the age of 65 with a new onset of mental illness or for individuals of any age with dementia and complicated medical and/or psychological symptoms.

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Seniors

Geriatric Psychiatry Outpatient Program

Seniors mental health services provide assessment, consultation and treatments to:

  • seniors aged 65 and older for a new onset of mental health challenges
  • individuals of...

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Seniors

Mood Disorders Clinic

The mood disorders clinic provides consultations for individuals with severe mood disorders such as possible bipolar disorder. This is a specialized service that provides diagnosis and treatment of severe mood disorders.

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Adults

First Responders Assist

This service will offer short-term counselling and supportive services, including follow up if needed, for first responders and their families impacted by the tragedies of...

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Adults
First Responders

Inpatient Withdrawal Management Unit

The inpatient treatment program provides medical, supervised withdrawal management and support to individuals that require treatment and support to manage their withdrawal...

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Adults

Driving While Impaired (DWI) Program / Alcohol Ingnition Interlock Program (AIIP)

If your driver’s license has been suspended or revoked for an alcohol or drug-related offence, you are required by the Registry of Motor Vehicles to attend the DWI Program in...

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Adults / Seniors

Seniors Mental Health Services

Seniors mental health services provide assessment, consultation and treatments to:

- seniors aged 65 and older for a new onset of mental health challenges;
- individuals of...

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Seniors

School Mental Health (SchoolsPlus)

The school mental health clinicians provide individual and group therapy, mental health and addictions education for school staff and consultation services. Clinicians are on...

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Children / Youth

Operational Stress Injury (OSI) Clinic

The Operational Stress Injury (OSI) Clinic provides mental health services to Veterans, eligible members of the Canadian Forces (CF), RCMP members and former members, who have...

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Canadian Forces, RCMP

Provincial Mental Health and Addictions Crisis Line

The Provincial Mental Health and Addictions Crisis Line provides crisis intervention for children, youth and adults experiencing a mental health crisis or mental distress.

...

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Inpatient Mental Health Services

Inpatient mental health services are available for those who cannot be safely assessed, diagnosed and stabilized in the community. 

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First Nations Services

Mental Health clinicians work as part of the first nations health care team in several first nations communities. The Mental Health Clinician provides assessment, diagnosis...

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First Nations, Indigenous

Crossroads Clubhouse

Crossroads Cape Breton is community organized to support people living with mental illness in reclaiming and enhancing their lives. People are referred to as “members” because...

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Community Support Service (Adults)

The Community Support Teams for Adults/Community Supports for Adults supports individuals living with persistent mental illness to develop and maintain a safe, satisfying...

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Adult Community Mental Health and Addictions Services

Community Mental Health and Addictions includes a team of mental health and addictions professionals who provide services on an outpatient basis. The team provides assessment...

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Child and Adolescent Services

Child and Adolescent Services/Child Youth and Family/Child and Adolescent Outpatient Clinical Services provide mental health and addiction services to children and youth...

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