To know them is to love them. Well, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but when you understand Canada’s Low-Risk Drinking Guidelines, you’ve got a crib sheet for lowering the risks associated with drinking alcohol.
For these guidelines, a drink is any one of the following:
341 ml or 12 oz.
5% alcohol content
341 ml or 12 oz.
5% alcohol content
142 ml or 5 oz.
12% alcohol content
(vodka, rye, gin, rum, etc.)
43 ml or 1.5 oz.
40% alcohol content
What’s my limit?
You can reduce your long-term health risks by drinking no more than:
Gals: 10 drinks a week, with no more than 2 drinks a day most days.
Guys: 15 drinks a week, with no more than 3 drinks a day most days.
Make sure to have non-drinking days every week to avoid developing a habit.
What about special occasions?
You can reduce your risk of injury and harm by drinking no more than:
Gals: 3 drinks on any single occasion.
Guys: 4 drinks on any single occasion.
What do you mean by “risks”? It’s just alcohol, right?
These are low-risk guidelines, not no-risk guidelines. It’s a fact that risks increase when alcohol is involved.
Most Canadians know that drinking alcohol increases the long-term risks of health conditions like cirrhosis, high-blood pressure, stroke, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), and some types of cancer.
But did you know that there are short-term risks of drinking? Drinking alcohol increases your risk of injuries from with motor vehicle crashes, falls, and abusive or violent behaviour. Drinking also increases your risk of other harms, like alcohol poisoning, losing control, making bad decisions or embarrassing yourself.
To reduce your risk, drink with people you know and where you know you’ll be in a safe environment. Stay within the weekly limits of 10 drinks a week for women, and 15 drinks a week for men.
What are the risks of drinking my weekly limit in one night or over the weekend?
Risks go up with each drink. Heavy drinking episodes increase the risks of short-term harms like injuries and alcohol poisoning. The weekly limits are calculated to be just that—a weekly limit, not a daily limit.
Why are the drinking limits different if you’re a woman or a man?
Because science. And mom always said life wasn’t fair.
Top 3 reasons why the guidelines are different for women and men:
- On average, women weigh less than men, and smaller people reach higher blood-alcohol levels than larger people.
- Kilogram for kilogram, women have less water in their bodies than men do – even if a woman and a man of the same weight drink an equal amount of alcohol, the woman’s blood-alcohol concentration will be higher.
- Women have less alcohol-metabolizing enzymes and digest alcohol in their stomach differently than men.
When zero’s the limit.
Top 10 times to keep it at zero. Don’t drink when you’re:
- Driving a vehicle. Alcohol and driving NEVER mix.
- Pregnant or planning to become pregnant.
- Breastfeeding an infant.
- Making important decisions.
- Doing any kind of dangerous physical activity.
- Using machinery or tools.
- Taking medicine or other drugs that interact with alcohol.
- Living with mental or physical health problems.
- Living with alcohol dependence.
- Responsible for the safety of others.
Aren’t there health benefits to drinking? Should I drink up to the limits?
The guidelines set limits, not targets. You shouldn’t start or increase drinking to hit these limits or to achieve health benefits. The risks of drinking outweigh any health benefits, especially for young adults. Maybe join a gym instead?
If I drink at levels higher than those in the guidelines, does that mean I’m an alcoholic?
No. Alcohol dependence is a complex and serious health condition. If you’re worried about your drinking, talk to your doctor or contact the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba’s Provincial Adult Addiction Information Line toll-free at 1-855-662-6605.
Who came up with these guidelines, anyway?
Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines were developed by a team of independent Canadian and international experts in partnership with the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse. All provinces, including Manitoba, have endorsed the low-risk alcohol drinking guidelines.
The Liquor and Gaming Authority of Manitoba (LGA) regulates liquor and gaming in the province. Part of the LGA’s role is to educate Manitobans about responsible gambling and the responsible consumption of alcohol.