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Learn about alcohol and its impacts.

Please note

The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction is currently in the process of updating Canada’s Low-Risk Drinking Guidelines (external link). The release of the guidelines is expected for Fall 2022 and we will update our information accordingly to align with any changes to the guidelines.


Alcohol is a drug that can change the way you think, act and feel.

What are effects of drinking alcohol?

Alcohol is associated with a number of chronic diseases, including:

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

Other health and social impacts of alcohol consumption can include:

How can you reduce your risk?

Canada's Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines (external link) are intended for adults aged 25-64. If you choose to drink, these guidelines can help you decide when, where, why and how.

Canada's Low Risk Drinking Guidelines

The guidelines are intended for adults aged 25-64. If you choose to drink, the guidelines can help you decide when, where, why and how.

Canada's Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines (external link)

Linked with permission from the Middlesex-London Health Unit(external link)

Special considerations:

Youth (before 19 years)

Alcohol can harm the healthy physical and mental development of children and adolescents. Youth should:

  • Avoid drinking at least until their late teens.
  • Consider the safer drinking tips provided in Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines.


Women are more vulnerable to alcohol risks because:

  • On average, women weigh less and people who weigh less reach higher blood alcohol levelscompared to people who weigh more.
  • Women have more adipose tissue (fat), causing alcohol to be absorbed more slowly and the effects of alcohol to take longer to wear off.
  • Women have less water in their bodies to dilute alcohol. If a woman and a man of the same weight drink an equal amount of alcohol, a woman's blood alcohol concentration will be higher.
  • Women have lower levels of the enzymes that break down alcohol. This lower level of enzymes means that alcohol remains in a woman's system longer.

If you are planning a pregnancy, are pregnant or suspect you may be, it is safest not to drink alcohol.

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 worsened health issues.
  • Should avoid alcohol while taking medications.
  • Should not exceed the guideline limits.

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
  • No smoking

When zero’s the limit

Don’t drink when you are:

  • Pregnant or planning to become pregnant.
  • Driving a vehicle or using machinery and tools.
  • About to breastfeed.
  • 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.
  • Responsible for the safety of others.
  • Making important decisions.