Consuming alcohol can lead to short-term effects such as slowed reaction time, slurred speech, impaired decision-making and judgment, blurred vision, a hangover, risk of injury, risky sexual behaviour and impaired driving. It can also lead to long-term harms like brain damage, ulcers, liver disease, heart disease and various cancers such as oral, liver, breast, and colorectal. Low-risk drinking helps promote a culture of moderation, supports a healthy lifestyle and reduces your risk of both short- and long-term harms. If you choose to drink, the guidelines below can help you decide when, where, why and how. For these guidelines, a “drink” means:
- 341 milliliters (12 ounces) of 5% alcohol beer, cider or cooler
- 142 milliliters (5 ounces) of 12% alcohol wine
- 43 milliliters (1.5 milliliter) of 40% alcohol spirits or liquor
Remember, it’s the amount you drink and the alcohol content of a drink that affects you, not the type of drink. Whether it’s beer, wine or spirits, they all contain 0.6 ounces (13.6 grams) of pure alcohol.
Reduce your long-term health risks by drinking no more than:
- 10 drinks a week for women, with no more than two drinks a day most days
- 15 drinks a week for men, with no more than three drinks a day most days
Plan non-drinking days every week to avoid developing a habit.
Reduce your risk of injury and harm by drinking no more than three drinks (for women) and four drinks (for men) on any single occasion.
Do not drink when you are:
- driving a vehicle or using machinery and tools
- taking medicine or other drugs that interact with alcohol
- doing any kind of dangerous physical activity
- living with mental or physical health problems
- living with alcohol dependence
- pregnant or planning to be pregnant
- responsible for the safety of others
- making important decisions.
If you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or about to breastfeed, the safest choice is to drink no alcohol at all.
If you are a child or youth, you should delay drinking until your late teens. Talk with your parents about drinking. Alcohol can harm the way your brain and body develop. If you are drinking, plan ahead, follow local alcohol laws and stay within the limits outlined in Guideline 1.
- Set limits for yourself and stick with them.
- Drink slowly. Have no more than two drinks in any three hours.
- For every drink of alcohol, have one non-alcoholic drink.
- Eat before and while you are drinking.
- Always consider your age, body weight and health problems that might suggest lower limits.
- Do not start to drink, or increase your drinking, for health benefits.
If all Canadian drinkers followed the guidelines, it’s estimated that alcohol-related deaths would be reduced by approximately 4600 per year.