Alcohol can be an enjoyable part of life. It's part of many people's lives and may have a place in cultural and family traditions. Many people enjoy drinking alcohol, and most people usually do it safely. But it's okay to decide not to drink.
If you choose to drink alcohol, the key is to keep your drinking at the safest possible levels, called low-risk drinking. It's important to remember that drinking alcohol is not risk-free.
In general, limit how much you drink. Canadian health experts recommend that:
On special occasions every now and then, it's okay to have 1 extra drink.
If you choose to drink, keep the amount of alcohol you drink within the recommended limits. Drinking at the upper limits should only happen once in a while, not every day or week. And on at least a couple of days each week, don't drink any alcohol at all.
Keep in mind that a safe amount of alcohol for one person may be too much for another. Because of things like age, sex, weight, and health history, alcohol can affect people differently. If you're an adult who doesn't weigh a lot, is younger than 25 or older than 65, or isn't used to drinking, you need to be even more careful about how much alcohol you drink.
Young people should wait at least until they are in their late teenage years to drink alcohol. Follow the laws for the legal drinking age where you live. Drinking at a younger age can affect a young person's general health, physical growth, emotional development, ability to make good decisions, and schoolwork.
Parents can play a key part in teaching their children how to drink safely and responsibly.
Although most people can safely have a drink now and then, some people should not drink at all.
Don't drink alcohol if:
Talk to your doctor about whether drinking alcohol is safe for you. And if it is, ask how much is okay.
Some research suggests that having 1 drink a day may help lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes in middle-aged adults. But these possible health benefits decline with each additional drink that you have. Research also shows that any amount of alcohol can increase your risk of other health problems, such as some cancers.
If you don't drink now, don't start drinking to lower your risk of these health problems. There are many other ways you can lower your risk, such as eating a healthy diet, exercising, staying at a healthy weight, and not smoking. Talk to your doctor about your health and the benefits and risks of drinking alcohol.
When you drink alcohol, you may be putting your health and safety at risk. Your risk of harm increases with each drink that you have. And your risk of harm increases with how often you drink at amounts above the low-risk drinking guidelines, even if you do this only now and then.
Drinking alcohol may:
It can sometimes be hard to know when you begin to drink too much.
You are at risk of drinking too much if you are:
If you think you might have a drinking problem, take this short quiz:
One of the signs of an alcohol use problem is that you keep drinking even though you know your drinking is causing problems in your life. Another sign that you might have a problem is if you often have a strong need or craving to drink.
Here are some other signs:
Some people who want to cut back on or stop drinking are able to do so on their own. But others may need help.
If you're worried about your health and want to cut back on or stop drinking, ask your family, friends, or doctor for help. Or join a support group such as LifeRing or Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Your family members might want to attend a support group such as Al-Anon or Alateen.
In some provinces, there are telephone helplines you can call for support and to find out what resources are available in your area that can help you manage your alcohol use problem.
To get some tips on how to cut back on drinking, see:
If you're still finding it hard to cut back on or stop drinking on your own, or if these support services don't help, you may need medical help. This is especially important if you have withdrawal symptoms when you try to cut back on or stop drinking. Symptoms of withdrawal may include sweating and feeling sick to your stomach, feeling shaky, and feeling anxious.
Talk to your doctor about whether you need treatment for your drinking problem. In many cases, treatment may focus on helping you reduce your drinking to low-risk levels rather than stopping completely. You and your doctor can decide what treatment approach is best for you.
Some treatment approaches may involve:
If you feel that you have an alcohol use problem, get help. The earlier you get help, the easier it will be to cut back on or stop drinking.
If you choose to drink, here are some things you can do to reduce your risk of getting sick or injured:
If you know someone who drinks too much or puts himself or herself in situations where risky drinking is going to occur (such as at a bar or party), here are some things you can do to help reduce that person's risk of harm. You can:
If you know someone who is homeless and has struggled with a severe alcohol problem for many years and hasn't been able to stay sober despite getting treatment, find out if there is a managed alcohol program in your area that can help. This type of program offers people a place to stay while they get treatment.
Whether you drink a little or a lot, it's important to have a healthy lifestyle. Here are some things you can do to stay healthy:
Other Works Consulted
Butt P, et al. (2010). Alcohol and Health in Canada: A Summary of Evidence and Guidelines for Low-Risk Drinking. To be published in Fall 2011.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineThomas M. Bailey, MD - Family MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerChristine R. Maldonado, PhD - Behavioral Health
Current as ofNovember 3, 2016
Current as of:
November 3, 2016
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
& Thomas M. Bailey, MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Christine R. Maldonado, PhD - Behavioral Health
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2017 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.