CBC Digital Archives

Alcohol: After just one drink

It's not just the water that flows freely in Canada. Brewing, distilling and wine-making have long thrived here, and not even Prohibition could turn off the taps. Despite tight controls on the purchase and consumption of liquor, Canadians kept on drinking, and laws were gradually relaxed in the 1960s and '70s. Then alcohol's darker side came to light: teen drinking, drunk driving, fetal alcohol syndrome and a terrible toll on aboriginal communities. CBC Digital Archives traces Canada's changing relationship with the bottle.

The hand trembles. The eyes are jerky. The body sways. It's not discernible to the casual observer, but lab tests capture it all after a volunteer drinks just one double vodka with orange juice. In a revealing analysis of how the body reacts to alcohol, a 1978 CBC-TV special finds that hand-eye coordination suffers even when the blood alcohol level is well below the legal limit of impairment. A second segment demonstrates how long-term drinking affects the brain. 
• The chemical ethanol, found in all alcoholic drinks, is metabolized by the body to become carbon dioxide and water. But if a person drinks more than the body can absorb, ethanol affects the central nervous system and the brain. • Alcohol also has psychological effects on people, including lowered inhibitions. It impairs the brain's ability to reason, remember and make judgements.

• Over the longer term, alcohol can damage the lining of the mouth and tissues in the pharynx, esophagus and stomach, making them more prone to cancers later in life.

• Other long-term effects of heavy drinking (four or more drinks daily over many years) include shrinking of the brain and cirrhosis of the liver. 

Medium: Television
Program: CBC Television Special
Broadcast Date: Dec. 26, 1978
Host: David Gardner
Duration: 4:26

Last updated: March 5, 2013

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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