St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner. It is a day synonymous with partying and drinking green beer. However, it is also a day associated with over-consumption of alcohol (or “binge drinking”) and public intoxication. Binge drinking is defined as drinking five or more drinks at a time for men and four or more for women. It is a growing concern in our society; but specifically with adults aged 18-34, and especially with high school, college and university students.
Over consumption of alcohol can cause nausea, vomiting and headaches. It can also cause you to black out (have no memory of events or your actions while drinking), pass out and can lead to alcohol poisoning or even death. In addition to the immediate physical effects, over consumption of alcohol over a prolonged period of time can cause brain and liver damage and can lead to conditions like hypertension. Over consumption also leads to violence, fights and injuries and is associated with a greater risk or instances of sexual assault and accidental pregnancies. It is no coincidence that the infamous Fanshawe College riot in London in 2012 occurred on St. Patrick’s Day.
It should also be kept in mind that there are laws governing public consumption of alcohol and intoxication. The Ontario Liquor License Act prohibits consumption of alcohol in public places (places other than a residence, private place or licensed premises). It also prohibits intoxication in a public place or a common area and in the more extreme cases, can lead to a fine or an arrest. So, what is considered intoxication sufficient to warrant a fine or arrest? The Act does not define intoxication, but case law has found that there are two levels of intoxication addressed within the Act.
The first level is intoxication rendering a person substantially impaired. It is not enough that a person merely appears to be under the influence of alcohol. It is intoxication at the extreme end. Under this level, a person may be given a ticket and fined up to $125. The second level of intoxication can lead to an arrest if you are intoxicated and have placed either your safety or the safety of others at risk. It also must be necessary to arrest rather than to pursue other means of eliminating the risk. So, one can be substantially impaired and not arrested.
This St. Patrick’s Day, if you plan to enjoy the festivities, be responsible and keep in mind the risks associated with binge drinking, both short and long term, and the potential consequences of drinking in public.