Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction

Research

Alcohol is the most commonly used substance in Canada. It causes more substance use related costs than either tobacco or all other drugs combined. Understanding the impacts of alcohol use is essential to minimizing the risks and harms. The research section summarizes the current evidence on the health impacts of alcohol, the costs of alcohol use and peoples’ perceptions of alcohol.

Health Impacts of Alcohol

Health Impacts of Alcohol

Alcohol carries a special social and cultural significance in Canada. It is also the most commonly used substance. While drinking is a personal choice, those that do choose to consume alcohol might not be aware of all the short- and long-term health risks. Drinking beyond one’s limits can result in confusion, loss of coordination, chronic illness and impact to the brain.

Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines

Drinking in moderation is key for reducing the long-term health risks associated with alcohol. To increase awareness and start public discussions about drinking in moderation, a set of national low-risk alcohol drinking guidelines was established. The guidelines are intended for individuals aged 25 to 65 who choose to drink. They also provide information on how to reduce the risk of alcohol-related harm. Some of the low-risk guidance includes:

  • Understanding when not to drink, such as when an individual needs to drive or is responsible for the care of others;
  • Setting a limit of two drinks per occasion for women, three drinks per occasion for men; and
  • Setting a limit of 10 drinks a week for women and 15 drinks a week for men;

Sharing the Guidelines

Sharing the Guidelines

Canadian alcohol intake increases during holidays, parties and vacations. The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addictions created this calendar of social media graphics to remind Canadians that if they’re planning to drink, moderation can help reduce harms from alcohol. Below are social media graphics and posts available for download. The purpose of this calendar is to support other organizations in their efforts to remind Canadians to drink in moderation.

Occasions where some people might drink beyond their limits include:

CCSA will update these graphics annually to reflect new research and messaging.

Show us your tweets by tagging us using @CCSACanada in English and @CCDUSCanada in French.


To view the full-size social media image, click on the thumbnail below. Copy and paste the text beside each thumbnail for a ready-to-use social media post.

Spring Break

Seize the Day! Have a Safe, Fun Vacation by Drinking in Moderation

 

Whether you’re going on vacation for spring break or meeting with friends at home, moderate drinking can help you have a safer spring break. Low-risk drinking guidelines suggest no more than 2 drinks daily for women and 3 drinks daily for men.

Learn more: https://www.ccsa.ca/canadas-low-risk-alcohol-drinking-guidelines-brochure
#RethinkTheDrink


Get the most from your spring break by feeling your best. Here are some tips to help:

  • For every alcoholic drink, have a non-alcoholic drink
  • Never drink on an empty stomach
  • Take breaks between days that you drink

Learn more: https://www.ccsa.ca/canadas-low-risk-alcohol-drinking-guidelines-brochure
#RethinkTheDrink


St Patrick's Day

#

 

Have a green St. Patrick’s Day! If you plan to drink this St. Patrick’s Day, stay safe by drinking in moderation. A standard beer is 12 oz at 5% alcohol.

Find out the standard size for your drink of choice here: https://www.ccsa.ca/canadas-low-risk-alcohol-drinking-guidelines-brochure
#RethinkTheDrink


Don’t test your luck! Reduce your alcohol intake by drinking in moderation to have your best St. Patrick’s Day yet. Low-risk drinking guidelines suggest no more than 2 drinks daily for women and 3 drinks daily for men.

Learn more: https://www.ccsa.ca/canadas-low-risk-alcohol-drinking-guidelines-brochure
#RethinkTheDrink


Summer Parties

Keep Cool This Summer! Drink in Moderation

 

Stay cool this summer and have a safe night out. If you plan to drink, drink in moderation. Low-risk drinking guidelines suggest no more than 2 drinks daily for women and 3 drinks daily for men.

Learn more: https://www.ccsa.ca/canadas-low-risk-alcohol-drinking-guidelines-brochure
#RethinkTheDrink


Whether you’re at a music festival or a backyard BBQ, a standard drink depends on what’s in your glass. A standard cider is 12 oz at 5% alcohol.

Find out the standard size for your drink of choice by reading
our low-risk drinking guidelines: https://www.ccsa.ca/canadas-low-risk-alcohol-drinking-guidelines-brochure
#RethinkTheDrink


Frosh Week

Start the School Year Right: Drink in Moderation at Frosh Week

 

Start the school year right by reducing your alcohol consumption. Here are some tips to get the most from frosh week:

  • Stay balanced — for every alcoholic drink, have a non-alcoholic drink
  • Never drink on an empty stomach

Learn more: https://www.ccsa.ca/canadas-low-risk-alcohol-drinking-guidelines-brochure
#RethinkTheDrink


Have a safe frosh by planning your alcohol consumption. Decide what you’re drinking, set your limits and stick to them.

Download CCSA’s Low-Risk Drinking Guidelines for more info: https://www.ccsa.ca/canadas-low-risk-alcohol-drinking-guidelines-brochure
#RethinkTheDrink


Halloween

Leave the Scary parts of Your Night to the Ghosts and Goblins: Stay Safe by Reducing Your Alcohol Use

 

Have a safe #Halloween. Decide what you’re drinking, set your limits and stick to them.

Download CCSA’s Low-Risk Drinking Guidelines for more info: https://www.ccsa.ca/canadas-low-risk-alcohol-drinking-guidelines-brochure
#RethinkTheDrink


Halloween

Don't have a Hollow Night! Have a Safe Halloween by Limiting Your Alcohol Use

 

Drinking in moderation is better for your health and your safety. Here are some tips to keep your night light:

  • Stay balanced — for every alcoholic drink, have a non-alcoholic drink
  • Never drink on an empty stomach

Learn more: https://www.ccsa.ca/canadas-low-risk-alcohol-drinking-guidelines-brochure
#RethinkTheDrink


The Big Game

Planning a Party for the Big Game? You Can't Control The Referee, But You Can Keep Control of Your Alcohol Intake

 

Whether your team is in the big game or not, you can be your own MVP. If you plan to drink, drink in moderation. Set your limits and stick to them. We want you to see the whole game, even if the referee doesn’t.

Learn more: https://www.ccsa.ca/canadas-low-risk-alcohol-drinking-guidelines-brochure
#RethinkTheDrink


Good luck to the teams playing in today’s big game! To the fans who plan to have a drink, remember to drink in moderation. Low-risk drinking guidelines suggest no more than 2 drinks daily for women and 3 drinks daily for men.

Learn more: https://www.ccsa.ca/canadas-low-risk-alcohol-drinking-guidelines-brochure
#RethinkTheDrink


Holiday Office Parties

Put Your Best Foot Forward: Drink in Moderation at the Office Holiday Party

 

Put your best foot forward at your office holiday party. Here are some tips to keep your night light:

  • Stay balanced — for every alcoholic drink, have a non-alcoholic drink
  • Never drink on an empty stomach

Learn more: https://www.ccsa.ca/canadas-low-risk-alcohol-drinking-guidelines-brochure
#RethinkTheDrink


Remember: moderation includes not drinking at all when you have any obligations or responsibilities. That includes watching over a loved one, driving or making big decisions.

Learn more by reading the low-risk drinking guidelines: https://www.ccsa.ca/canadas-low-risk-alcohol-drinking-guidelines-brochure
#RethinkTheDrink


Holidays

Have a Safe Holiday: Drink in Moderation

 

Have a safe holiday by knowing your limits. A standard drink depends on what’s in your glass. A standard glass of wine is 5 oz and 12% alcohol.

Find out the standard size for your drink of choice this holiday season here: https://www.ccsa.ca/canadas-low-risk-alcohol-drinking-guidelines-brochure
#RethinkTheDrink


Remember: moderation includes not drinking at all when you have any obligations or responsibilities. That includes watching over a loved one, driving or making big decisions.

Learn more by reading the low-risk drinking guidelines: https://www.ccsa.ca/canadas-low-risk-alcohol-drinking-guidelines-brochure
#RethinkTheDrink


New Year's Eve

Don't Drop Before the Ball this Year: Drinking in Moderation Will Help Get You to Midnight

 

Don’t drop before the ball this year. If you plan to ring in the new year with alcohol, drink in moderation:

  • Stay balanced — for every alcoholic drink, have a non-alcoholic drink
  • Never drink on an empty stomach

Learn more: https://www.ccsa.ca/canadas-low-risk-alcohol-drinking-guidelines-brochure
#RethinkTheDrink


New year, new you? Why not start now. If you plan to drink tonight, try moderate drinking tips. Low-risk drinking guidelines suggest no more than 2 drinks daily for women and 3 drinks daily for men.

Learn more: https://www.ccsa.ca/canadas-low-risk-alcohol-drinking-guidelines-brochure
#RethinkTheDrink

Youth and Alcohol

Youth and Alcohol

Many youth experiment with alcohol. According to the Canadian Student Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey 2016-17, Canadian youth in grades 7-12 started drinking at age 13.4. The average age of first having five drinks or more at one time was 14.5 years. By grades 10-12, 64.5% of youth had used alcohol.

According to CCSA's summary on Youth and Alcohol, young people might  not be familiar with the effects of alcohol, which puts them at risk. Due to the stage of brain development, youth can also be more impulsive. Instead of drinking in moderation regularly, most young people occasionally binge drink, which can lead to bad decision making such as driving while impaired by alcohol and, in some extreme cases, to emergency department visits.

Costs of Alcohol Use

Costs of Alcohol Use

According to the alcohol drug summary, 78% of the general population (aged 15 and over) reported alcohol past-year use in 2017. Alcohol can result in numerous health impacts. It also contributes to the overall cost of substance use. The greatest impact is in lost productivity and healthcare costs. Other sectors impacted include criminal justice, business and industry, as well as research and prevention, damage to property and motor vehicles, and workplace costs. From 2007 to 2014, alcohol contributed:

  • $14.6 billion to the overall cost of substance use
  • $5.9 billion to lost productivity
  • $4.2 billion to healthcare
  • $3.2 billion to criminal justice

Canadian Perceptions and Trends

Canadian Perceptions and Trends

Demographic Trends for Alcohol Use

Canadian alcohol use has remained relatively stable since 2010. Past year use among the general population (aged 15 years and older) was 78% in 2017. While there is no difference in use rates between sexes (79% for males and 77% for females in 2017), increasing numbers of women are reporting past-year alcohol use (73% in 2015 compared to 77% in 2017). In addition, young adults (aged 20 to 24) are more likely to report past year use (83%) than youth aged 15 to 19 (57%) and adults aged 25 years and older (79%).

Post-secondary Student Perceptions on Alcohol

Students often have inaccurate perceptions about alcohol. According to the report on Heavy Episodic Drinking Among Post Secondary Students, they often misjudge how much and how often others drink. Some also think that their friends approve of drinking. These misperceptions can affect their drinking behaviour and lead them to drink more. Some students also mistake their drinking limits, which increases their risk of experiencing harms related to drinking.

Moreover, many students participate in pre-drinking which is drinking before going to a larger party or bar. Pre-drinking can result in negative consequences due to the uncontrolled environment and the excessive drinking that often takes place.

In general, these perceptions can play a role in how students view their drinking experiences. Some perceptions and experiences that post-secondary students noted about alcohol include:

  • Heavy episodic drinking is not a serious issue;
  • Drinking is a positive experience;
  • Drinking has minimal health or safety risks;
  • Having negative experiences, such as blackouts, injury, non-consensual sex and vomiting; and
  • Using alcohol as a coping mechanism for stress or anxiety

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