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Canada’s low-risk alcohol drinking guidelines 

© Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse 2012. Developed on behalf of the National Alcohol Strategy Advisory Committee.

Drinking is a personal choice. If you choose to drink, these guidelines can help you decide when, where, why and how. 

For these guidelines, “a drink” means

  • 341 ml (12 oz.) bottle of 5% alcohol beer, cider or cooler
  • 142 ml (5 oz.) glass of 12% alcohol wine
  • 43 ml (1.5 oz.) serving of 40% distilled

Your limits

Reduce your long-term health risks by drinking no more than:

  • 10 drinks a week for women, with no more than 2 drinks a day most days
  • 15 drinks a week for men, with no more than 3 drinks a day most days

Plan non-drinking days every week to avoid developing a habit.

Special occasions

Reduce your risk of injury and harm by drinking no more than 3 drinks (for women) or 4 drinks (for men) on any single occasion.

Plan to drink in a safe environment. Stay within the weekly limits outlined above in Your limits.

When zero’s the limit

Do not drink when you are:

  • 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
  • pregnant or planning to be pregnant
  • responsible for the safety of others
  • making important decisions

Pregnant? Zero is safest

If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, or about to breastfeed, the safest choice is to drink no alcohol at all.

Delay your drinking

Alcohol can harm the way the body and brain develop. Teens should speak with their parents about drinking. If they choose to drink, they should do so under parental guidance; never more than 1–2 drinks at a time, and never more than 1–2 times per week. They should plan ahead, follow local alcohol laws and consider the Safer drinking tips listed in this brochure.

Youth in their late teens to age 24 years should never exceed the daily and weekly limits outlined in Your limits.

Safer drinking tips

  • Set limits for yourself 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.
  • Always consider your age, body weight and health problems that might suggest lower limits.

While drinking may provide health benefits for certain groups of people, do not start to drink or increase your drinking for health benefits.

Low-risk drinking helps to promote a culture of moderation.

Low-risk drinking supports healthy lifestyles.

Organizations officially supporting Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines:

  • Association of Canadian Distillers
  • Association of Local Public Health Agencies
  • Brewers Association of Canada
  • Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police
  • Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse
  • Canadian Medical Association
  • Canadian Paediatric Society
  • Canadian Public Health Association
  • Canadian Vintners Association
  • Centre for Addiction Research of British Columbia
  • Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
  • College of Family Physicians of Canada
  • Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health
  • Educ’alcool
  • MADD Canada
  • Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness
  • Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
Reference

Butt, P., Beirness, D., Cesa, F., Gliksman, L., Paradis, C., & Stockwell, T. (2011). Alcohol and health in Canada: A summary of evidence and guidelines for low-risk drinking. Ottawa, ON: Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse.

Have feedback?

Email: alcohol@ccsa.ca

Visit the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) website.

Looking for help?

Contact the Drug and Alcohol Helpline for information about services and supports in Ontario. Call 1-800 565-8603 or check online at www.drugandalcoholhelpline.ca.

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