Hemophilia and alcohol

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Teens living with hemophilia can learn about alcohol and how to drink responsibly.

Alcohol can come in many different forms. Some people drink it for the taste or the effect it can produce such as helping them to feel relaxed. The alcohol that is used as a cleaner or antiseptic isn’t the same—it is quite toxic and not something anyone should drink. When people drink alcohol, the alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream. The bloodstream then carries the alcohol throughout the body. The alcohol affects the brain and spinal cord, which are important in controlling almost all bodily functions.

How alcohol affects you

Alcohol is a depressant. This means it slows down the functioning of your central nervous system - your brain and spinal cord. Specifically, alcohol can slow down the messages trying to get to your brain. In some cases, it can block the messages altogether. This causes changes in your perceptions, emotions, movement, vision, and hearing.

If you have had a lot of alcohol to drink, you can become drunk. You may start to stagger, lose coordination, slur your speech, and be confused and disoriented. You might become very friendly and talkative or you could become angry and aggressive. Alcohol will also slow down your reaction time. For instance, if you are drinking, it takes longer to respond to a person running out in front of the car you are driving. This is why drinking and driving is so dangerous.

Drinking large amounts of alcohol in a short time period can lead to alcohol poisoning. This is exactly what it sounds like. The body becomes poisoned by a large amount of alcohol. Vomiting is usually the first symptom. Extreme sleepiness, unconsciousness, difficulty breathing, low blood sugar levels, seizures, and even death may result. If you suspect someone may have alcohol poisoning, get them medical help as soon as possible.

Alcohol can affect you in other ways as well:

  • Drinking under age can lead to trouble with the law. The legal age to drink in most provinces in Canada is 19 years. Young people who drink are also more likely to get into fights and commit crimes than those who do not.
  • Drinking regularly can lead to problems at school. It can reduce your ability to study well and concentrate in school.
  • The changes that come with drinking can lead to doing embarrassing things like throwing up and can leave you with a bad hangover.
  • Alcohol can put your health at risk in other ways as well. Risky behaviour may include having unsafe, unprotected sex because your judgment is impaired, or injuring yourself when intoxicated.

If you are going to drink:

  • plan how much you are going to drink in advance. If you know how much alcohol makes you feel sick or act stupid, plan for less and keep track.
  • drink a glass of water in between every alcoholic drink.
  • stay away from drinks that don’t have any alcohol taste, like coolers. It is too easy to drink too much without realizing it when you can’t taste the alcohol.
  • have a plan for getting home before you start drinking. If you notice the designated driver is drinking, come up with another plan before you have anything more to drink. Also, make sure that they do not get behind the wheel.
  • mixing alcohol with energy drinks like Red Bull can have serious consequences. You don’t feel as drunk, but you are just as impaired. It is also much harder on your liver than drinking one or the other on its own.
  • have identification that shows that you have hemophilia—either a MedicAlert bracelet, a MyHealth Passport, or a Factor First card. If you are in an accident of some kind, you want to make sure that the Emergency Department knows to give you factor.
Last updated: March 13th 2019