Alcohol Use - Canada

Alcohol Use

You may think that alcohol is safe to consume compared to other substances - however, studies suggest that there is no healthy amount of alcohol use.

The Canadian government has published Guidance on Alcohol and Health. The main message here is that drinking less is better.

No Drinking At All

If any of the following apply, you should not drink any alcohol:

  • You are pregnant, might be pregnant, or trying to conceive. 

  • You are under the legal age.

  • You are driving, operating machinery, etc.

  • You have certain medical conditions in which alcohol can worsen.

  • You take medications that can interact with alcohol.

  • You are in recovery from an alcohol use disorder.

What’s a Standard Drink?

The more alcohol you consume per week, the more harm it can cause. Alcoholic drinks may be served in various amounts and the amount of alcohol per serving can be quite different, depending on the beverage. Use the following when considering the definition of a standard drink

What is Risky Drinking?

Drinking any amount of alcohol can be risky, however, there is an especially high chance of problems with certain drinking behaviours or situations. Some common scenarios are discussed below. 

Binge Drinking

Binge drinking is defined as consuming five or more drinks for males and four or more drinks for females, on a single occasion (e.g. within hours of each other).

It is a common, costly, and deadly pattern of excessive alcohol use. And, it is associated with serious accidents and injuries, as well as various medical conditions.

Mixing Alcohol with Caffeine of Energy Drinks

Mixing alcohol and caffeine can be very dangerous. Since caffeine is a stimulant and alcohol is a depressant, caffeine can “hide” the effects of alcohol. A person may drink more alcohol and end up more intoxicated. 

Mixing alcohol with energy drinks is popular, especially among young people. The drinks often have caffeine and other ingredients that may also mask the effects of alcohol. 

Alcohol’s Effect on Your Health

Long-term, excess alcohol use may lead to serious health problems including:

  • High blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke

  • Liver disease and digestive problems

  • Many types of cancer

  • Weakened immune system

  • Learning and memory problems (including dementia)

Alcohol use can also cause family, financial, and job-related problems.

Unhealthy Drinking Patterns

Alcohol Intoxication

A person may continue to drink even though they are impaired. This may lead to alcohol intoxication (also called alcohol poisoning). 

Alcohol intoxication can be life-threatening - with too much alcohol in your bloodstream, part of your brain begins to “shut down,” which affects breathing, heart rate, body temperature, etc. 

The symptoms include trouble breathing, slowed heart rate, very low body temperature, confusion, vomiting, seizures, loss of consciousness, etc.

Drinking alcohol and taking other prescription, over-the-counter, or illegal drugs is even more dangerous.

Binge Drinking

As mentioned, binge drinking means you drink a substantial amount of alcohol in a short period of time. It can have deadly consequences due to injuries, violence, and the development of medical problems and alcohol dependence. Also, being impaired from binge drinking can cause harm to other people (e.g. road crashes, child neglect).

Alcohol Use Disorder 

Continued use of alcohol may put you at risk for developing alcohol use disorder i.e. becoming alcohol-dependent. It may also put you at heightened risk of related problems - those affecting your health, family, work, finances, and social activities.

Reducing Alcohol Use

Any reduction in alcohol use has benefits: EVERY DRINK COUNTS.

If you want to drink less, the following can help: 

1. Work with your coach to create a plan and set goals. 

2. Use reminders to help you follow your plan. The reminders may be smartphone alerts, written Post-ItⓇ notes, calendar entries, etc.

You’ll want to:

  1. Set a limit for your drinking. Choose certain days and the number of drinks. For example, you might decide to have one drink one day a week. There are also apps that help you track the amount of alcohol you’re drinking (e.g. DrinkControl).

  2. Know the definition of a drink.

  3. Avoid your drinking triggers. They may be people with whom you drink or places or situations in which you commonly drink. 

  4. Have support in place. If you want to drink less, share the information with a close friend or family member - they can provide support.

Of course, your Goodpath coach is always there to help.