Healthy lifestyles Alcohol & substance misuse Low risk drinking guidelines

Canada's Low-Risk Drinking Guidelines

Canada's Low-Risk Drinking Guidelines aren't about abstinence; they're about rethinking your drinking to keep you healthy and safe in the short and long-term. Public Health is supporting a campaign called Rethink your Drinking. Find out more...

As of December 1, 2011, Canada has created one national set of low-risk alcohol drinking guidelines. These guidelines are designed to provide consistent, evidence-based recommendations for Canadians of legal drinking age, who choose to consume alcohol.    

Purpose of guidelines

According a 2002 study from the Canadian Centre of Substance Abuse, alcohol related injury costs Canada $14.6 billion each year.  The new guidelines, developed by the National Alcohol Strategy Advisory Committee (NASAC), are intended to provide consistent information across the country to help Canadians moderate their alcohol consumption and reduce their risk of immediate and long-term alcohol-related harm. 

Highlights of the guidelines

Canada’s Low-Risk Drinking Guidelines suggest you can reduce long term health risks by consuming no more than

  • 10 drinks a week for women, with no more than 2 drinks a day on most days
  • 15 drinks a week for men, with no more than 3 drinks a day on most days
  • Plan non-drinking days each week to avoid developing a habit

The guidelines also recommend  limits to reduce injury and harm on single occasions, and highlight situations where alcohol should be avoided altogether, such as when taking certain medications or driving.

For women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, or before breastfeeding, the safest choice is to not consume any alcohol.

According to the guidelines, a standard drink is defined as:

  • 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 alcohol (rye, gin, rum, etc.)

Alcohol consumption tips

  • Set limits for yourself and abide by 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 low levels of alcohol consumption may provide health benefits for certain groups of people, do not start to drink, or increase your drinking, for health benefits.

Learn more about Canada’s Low-Risk Drinking Guidelines

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.