Alcohol

Did you know?

  • Fifty-nine percent of Ontarians comply with Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines (Source: Canadian Community Health Survey)
  • Fifty-five percent of Halton residents comply with the Guidelines (Source: Canadian Community Health Survey)
  • Costs attributable to alcohol in Canada total close to 15 billion for health care, enforcement and lost productivity (Source: CCSA)
  • At even one drink per day, a woman’s risk of getting liver cirrhosis increases by 139% compared with 26% for a man (Source: CCSA)

Alcohol is a drug. It’s found in beer, wine and spirits, and acts as a depressant that slows down the central nervous system. The individual effects of alcohol are dependent upon gender, body weight, whether you’ve eaten and how much you drink.

Tips for Safer Drinking

  • Set your limits and stick to them.
  • Drink slowly, no more than 2 drinks in any 3 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.


Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines are intended for adults aged 25-64. If you choose to drink, these guidelines can help you decide when, where, why and how. If you don’t drink, don’t start. Canada's Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines External Link

Limits:

  • For women:
    • No more than 2 drinks on any single occasion.
    • No more than 10 drinks per week with no more than 2 drinks a day.
    • Plan non-drinking days every week to avoid developing a habit.
  • For men:
    • No more than 3 drinks on any single occasion.
    • No more than 15 drinks per week with no more than 3 drinks a day.
    • Plan non-drinking days every week to avoid developing a habit.
  • Why different amounts for women and men? – Alcohol puts women at greater risk of certain alcohol-related illnesses (e.g., breast cancer, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, liver disease) than men.

A standard drink means:

  • 341 ml (12 oz.) glass of 5% alcohol content (beer, cider, cooler)
  • 142 ml (5 oz. glass of wine with 12% alcohol content
  • 43 ml (1.5 oz.) serving of 46% distilled alcohol content (rye, gin, rum etc.)

Linked with permission from the Middlesex-London Health Unit External Link

When zero’s the limit – don’t 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 become pregnant.
  • Responsible for the safety of others.
  • Making important decisions.

When zero is safest:

  • Pregnant or planning to become pregnant.
  • About to breastfeed.

Guideline Exceptions:

  • Youth (before 19 years)
    Alcohol can harm the healthy physical and mental development of children and adolescents.
    • Youth should delay drinking at least until their late teens.
    • If youth do drink, they should never have more than one to two drinks at a time.
    • Never drink more than one to two times per week.
    • Consider the safer drinking tips provided in Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines.
  • Young adults (19 to 24 years)
    • Women not to exceed two drinks per day or 10 drinks per week
    • Men not to exceed three drinks per day or 15 drinks per week
    • Plan non-drinking days each week
  • Older adults (65+ years)
    Older adults process alcohol more slowly and are more sensitive to the effects of alcohol. They:
    • Are at increased risk of accidents, falls and the worsening of some health issues.
    • Should avoid alcohol while taking medications.
    • Should not exceed the guidelines.
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Chronic Disease:

Drinking alcohol is associated with a number of serious health problems. Over time drinking in excess of the Low-Risk Drinking Guidelines can increase the risk of some chronic diseases including:

  • Heart disease.
  • Cancer of the mouth, throat, breast, colon or liver.
  • Liver cirrhosis.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Depression.

As weekly consumption of alcohol increases, so does the chance of developing these illnesses. The risks increase regardless of the type of alcohol you drink.

Cancer Prevention:

Drinking alcohol is a risk factor for developing cancer of the mouth, neck, throat, liver, breast, colon and rectum. There is no clear safe limit, regardless of the type of alcohol. If you choose to drink alcohol and want to reduce your risk of cancer, the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) recommends:

  • Less than 1 standard drink a day for women
  • Less than 2 standard drinks a day for men
  • Don’t smoke

Alcohol and Women’s Health:

Alcohol puts women at greater risk than men for certain alcohol-related illnesses such as:

  • Breast cancer
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Liver disease

Women are more vulnerable to alcohol risks because:

  • Women, on average, weigh less than men.
  • Women have less water in their bodies than men do, so a woman’s blood alcohol concentration will be higher even if a man and woman consume the same amount.
  • Women have less alcohol metabolizing enzymes and digest alcohol in their stomach differently than men.
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Alcohol consumption is associated with a number of risks to health aside from chronic diseases.

  • Unintentional injuries can occur from alcohol-impaired judgement and reaction time:
    • Motor vehicle accidents
    • Falls
    • Accidental drowning
    • Burns
  • Alcohol poisoning can occur if too much alcohol is consumed too quickly:
    • Alcohol poisoning is caused by drinking a lot of alcohol in a short period of time. Body is unable to metabolize the amount of alcohol that was consumed. Binge drinking is the main cause of alcohol poisoning. Symptoms are:
      • Vomiting
      • Unconsciousness (passed out) or semi-conscious.
      • Slow or irregular breathing.
        • If someone shows the above symptoms and they have been drinking alcohol, CALL 911!
        • Turn the person on their side to prevent choking if they start to vomit.
  • Second-hand effects of alcohol impairment can be experienced by other individuals. These can include:
    • Physical and sexual assault.
    • Parenting, family or marriage problems.
    • Verbal abuse.
    • Property damage and vandalism.
    • Public intoxication.
  • Alcohol dependence can occur from regular alcohol consumption:
    • Is a complex and serious health condition.
    • Consult with a doctor if you’re worried about someone close – or yourself
    • Evaluate Your Drinking External Link at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) website
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a risk for a fetus exposed to alcohol prenatally. FASD may cause a range of permanent neurological disabilities and behaviour disorders.
    • If you are planning a pregnancy, are pregnant or suspect you may be, it is safest not to drink alcohol.
    • Contact your doctor or the Motherisk helpline at 1-877-327-4636 if you have questions.
    • Visit HaltonParents for more information on how to have a healthy pregnancy.
    • Visit Halton FASD (external link) for more information about FASD and supports in Halton.
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Drinking alcohol is a personal choice and most people drink responsibly. We’re not suggesting that you stop drinking, but you may want to take the time to Rethink Your Drinking and reduce your consumption as part of a healthy lifestyle.

Here’s why:

  • Alcohol use is linked to chronic diseases like cancers, heart disease and to Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.
  • Alcohol use is associated with injuries, both intentional and unintentional, alcohol poisoning and alcohol dependence.

Reducing consumption and following Canada's Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines can lower your risks for disease and injury.

There are many reasons to Rethink Your Drinking. Click here (external link) to learn more.

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