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Alcohol & Drugs

In partnership with our community, we work to prevent people from misusing substances including drugs and alcohol. We also aim to reduce substance-related harm in our communities.

Low-risk drinking guidelines

If you choose to drink alcohol, the low-risk drinking guidelines can help you decide when, where, why and how you drink. They’re designed to help adults reduce the risk of short-term harm (like injury) and long-term alcohol-related harm (like cancer). 

Summary of the LRDG showing amounts of wine, beer, and coolers that count as a "drink"
For these guidelines, a “drink” means 341 ml (12 oz.) of 5% beer, cider, or cooler; 142 ml (5 oz.) glass of wine with 12% alcohol; or 43 ml (1.5 oz.) distilled alcohol with 40% alcohol content (e.g., gin, rum).

The guidelines provide information for adults who choose to drink on how to reduce the risk of short and long term alcohol-related harm.

Guidelines

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

When zero is the limit

You should not drink alcohol when you are:

  • Pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or about to breastfeed
  • 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
  • Responsible for the safety of others
  • Making important decisions

Teens

We support Ontario’s drinking laws and strongly recommend youth delay drinking until at least the legal age of 19.  Alcohol can harm the way the body and brain develop. We encourage parents to speak with their teens about drinking.

If teenagers choose to drink alcohol, they should:

  • Do so under parental guidance in a safe environment
  • Never have more than 1 to 2 drinks at a time
  • Never drink more than 1 to 2 times per week

Alcohol and older adults

Adults ages 65 and older shouldn’t exceed the guidelines above.

As we age, our bodies process alcohol more slowly, making them more sensitive to the effects of alcohol. This can place older adults at increased risk for accidents, falls, and the worsening of some health issues.

Safer drinking tips:

  • Set your own drinking limits and stick to them
  • Drink slowly, have 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
  • Consider your age, body weight, and health problems that might suggest lower limits

Health risks and benefits of alcohol

The low-risk drinking guidelines set limits for drinking, not targets. You shouldn’t increase or maintain your drinking to reach the upper limits.

Research shows that moderate alcohol consumption (approximately one drink per day) can have some health benefits for men and women over 45 years of age against some forms of heart disease and diabetes. However, drinking in more than these guidelines cancels any health benefits.

If you currently do not drink alcohol, do not start drinking for heart health. You can reduce your chances of heart disease by not smoking, eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly.

Drinking any type of alcohol increases your risk of cancer.  If you’re concerned about your cancer risk, limit your consumption to less than 1 drink per day for women and less than 2 drinks per day for men.

Alcohol and energy drinks         

You should never mix energy drinks with alcohol. The caffeine in energy drinks can mask the effects of alcohol and make you underestimate how much you’ve had to drink, leading you to drink more than you normally would. You might think you’re fine to drive or do other activities which require alertness and coordination.

Where to get help

If you’re concerned about your own or someone else’s drinking, talk to your doctor or call the Homewood Health Centre 519-836-5733 or call the Drug and Alcohol Helpline 1-800-565-8603.

Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines were developed by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse. The guidelines provide a consistent national message for adults aged 25 to 65 who choose to drink alcohol.