Did You Know Canada Changed Their Alcohol Guidelines?

by | Jan 26, 2023 | Training

Last week, the Canadian government announced a new set of guidelines around alcohol. TL;DR: No amount of alcohol is safe or healthy. There is a bit of nuance, but that’s pretty much the update.

The rollout of the new guidelines hasn’t been overly publicized yet, but they only came out, ironically (or purposefully?) around Blue Monday, the day when many are questioning their New Year’s resolutions, including Dry January.  We first heard about the new guidelines on ‘The Decibel’ a Canadian news-based podcast interviewing the researchers behind the new guidelines but coverage now includes New York Times. 

You can check out the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse to learn more and read the entire (PDF) doc. Main point? “No matter where you are on the continuum, for your health, less alcohol is better.”

What caught our eye was that the amounts are now the same for everyone (not more for men) and a discussion of the social ramifications is also included in the discussion of the recommendations, if not also part of the reason for making one unified recommendations (i.e. men having and causing more injuries that are associated with drinking alcohol).

But about that continuum (or spectrum, if you prefer)… There is a continuum of risk associated with weekly alcohol use where the risk of harm is:

  • 0 drinks per week — Not drinking has benefits, such as better health, and better sleep.
  • 2 standard drinks or less per week — You are likely to avoid alcohol-related consequences for yourself or others at this level.
  • 3–6 standard drinks per week — Your risk of developing several types of cancer, including breast and colon cancer, increases at this level.
  • 7 standard drinks or more per week — Your risk of heart disease or stroke increases significantly at this level.
  • Each additional standard drink radically increases the risk of alcohol-related consequences.
  • Consuming more than 2 standard drinks per occasion is associated with an increased risk of harms to self and others, including injuries and violence.
  • When pregnant or trying to get pregnant, there is no known safe amount of alcohol use. When breastfeeding, not drinking alcohol is safest.

**1 drink = 12 ounces of beer or cider, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of spirits

It also adds that if you’re doing to drink, stick to 1 drink per day max. 2+ drinks in a day = higher risk.

The good news for someone reading this and getting stressed: any reduction is a good reduction, so even if you’re struggling to drop down from the 7+ number (you’re not alone, Bicycling did a great piece on ‘cycling’s drinking problem’ recently!) you’ll reap a benefit from any cutting down.

We’ll be sharing a podcast in coming weeks getting into these new guidelines, some tips for cutting back, and what the risk levels really mean, with experts on the topic. If you have any specific questions, definitely reach out and let us know. And of course, if you are struggling with alcohol, there are some great free resources out there to connect you with the help you need.


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