Explore Canada’s New Low Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines
For the first time since 2011, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction has updated Canada’s low-risk alcohol drinking guidelines.
As we know, consuming alcohol comes with health risks and can affect our functioning and overall well-being. What we may not know, is what amount of alcohol starts to increase our risk.
As of January 2023, the new recommended low risk alcohol drinking guidelines in Canada are as follows.
Number of standard alcoholic drinks per week:
- 0: no risk
- 1-2: low risk
- 3-6: moderate risk
- 7+: increasingly high risk
To stay within minimal risk, it is recommended we consume no more than 2 standard alcoholic drinks per week –regardless of age, gender, tolerance, or alcohol type.
Reducing the harms of alcohol
If you choose to drink, it can be helpful to be aware of strategies you can use to lower your risk:
- Alternate non-alcoholic with alcoholic beverages
- Avoid drinking games
- Determine in advance not to exceed a set number of drinks
- Eat before and/or during drinking
- Eating while drinking slows alcohol absorption
- Ask a friend to let you know when you have had enough
- Keep track of how many drinks are being consumed
- Use check marks on a calendar, an app in your phone, 3×5 cards that fit in your wallet
- Pace drinks to one or fewer an hour
- Stay with the same group of friends the entire time drinking
- Stick with only one kind of alcohol while drinking
- Refuse a drink from a stranger
- Never leave a drink unattended
- If you’re offered a drink that you don’t see poured, decline
- Use a designated driver (DD)
Remember, how you choose to use is up to you. It is normal and acceptable to implement harm reduction strategies and set boundaries to lower your risk while drinking. It is also normal and acceptable to choose not to drink. Considering your safety is allowed to be your priority.
The risks of binge drinking
The definition and risks of binge drinking (consuming 5 or more drinks for men or 4 or more drinks for women in one sitting) have remained the same.
Binge drinking can put you at an increased risk for:
- Unintentional injury such as motor vehicle collisions, falls, or burns
- Violence or sexual violence
- Sexually transmitted infections
- Unplanned pregnancy
- Changes in mood
- Academic challenges (missing class or falling behind in schoolwork)
- Memory, concentration, and learning difficulties
- Alcohol dependence
- Chronic diseases such as heart disease or high blood pressure
Misconceptions about alcohol use
If you choose not to drink, know you are not alone!
According to a recent survey (NCHA, 2019) almost all UM students are under the impression that their peers are drinking more than they actually are:
- 96% of students believed that their peers drink alcohol
- But, 22% of UM students have never used alcohol.
This misconception about widespread alcohol use amongst university students is important to address as it can contribute to perceived peer pressure to consume when, in fact, about 40% of UM students reported that they have never used alcohol or only used it once in the past 30 days.
If you would like to explore your relationship with alcohol use, or have questions or concerns, please feel free to connect with one of UM’s alcohol use resources:
- Student Counselling Centre, Addictions Foundation of Manitoba Community Support Worker: 204-474-8592
- Health and Wellness Educator: 204-295-9032
- Healthy U Peer Health Educators
- University Health Service: 204-474-8411
- Safer Social Event Team: A team of friendly, trained UM students, present at on-campus events where alcohol is served. Look for SSET at your next event – they will be around in yellow shirts offering support for those who may need it!
For more information on the new guidelines or to explore supporting research, visit the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction.