Last reviewed/revised:  November 30, 2022

Alcohol is the most commonly used substance, with about three-quarters of Canadians consuming it on occasion. Although alcohol consumption is very normalized and often intertwined with social activities, it can be harmful.

Research shows that drinking even small amounts of alcohol may increase the chance of developing various chronic health problems including heart disease, stroke, and cancer. These risks can be reduced by following the Low Risk Drinking Guidelines.

  • Low risk of harm for individuals who consume 2 drinks or less per week.
  • Moderate risk of harm for individuals who consume 3 to 6 drinks per week.
  • Risk of harm increases with each drink above 6 per week.

Alcohol presents additional risks during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and thus it is safest to not drink during these times. For more information, click here.

Setting Limits

These tips can help you take control of your alcohol intake so you enjoy the benefits with fewer risks or regrets!

  • If you are going out, bring only the money you want to spend.
  • 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.
  • Always consider your age, body weight and health problems that might suggest lower limits.

Binge Drinking

“Heavy” or binge” drinking is when a person consumes a lot of alcohol on one occasion, in a short amount of time. Typically, this is 4 or more drinks for women and 5 or more drinks for men. Binge drinking increases the risk of many health and safety concerns, such as:

  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Unintentional injuries
  • Violence and risky sexual behaviours
  • Chronic diseases, such as heart problems and cancer
  • Mental health problems

Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol poisoning can happen when a person drinks too much alcohol for their body to process. It is a medical emergency. If someone has alcohol poisoning, you should call 911, put the person in recovery position, and stay with the person until help arrives. Signs of alcohol poisoning include:

  • Semi-conscious or unable to be woken up
  • Cold, clammy, pale, or blueish skin
  • Vomiting while sleeping
  • Slow, irregular, or stopped breathing
  • Seizures

Resources, Support, & Treatment

Understanding Cannabis & Alcohol in Later Life — mental health resources from CAMH for older adults. Access multi-lingual versions here

Rethink Your Drinking — an awareness campaign to make you think about your relationship with alcohol; consider why, when, and how much you drink

If you’re concerned, there are many sources for help. Your alcohol use is something you should also discuss with your doctor, especially if you are taking medications.