New limits demystify drinking

UVic study helps people decode 'safe' drinking limits

A UVic study now summarizes new limits to keep drinking safe for all genders and ages.

UVic study helps people decode ‘safe’ drinking limits

When it comes to how much spirit is too much for one person to imbibe, the jury has long been out. But thanks to a new study headed by UVic, Canada may be getting closer to its first national consensus on what constitutes low-risk drinking.

The study, which was published in the international academic journal Drug and Alcohol Review, introduces 18 research articles and commentaries from contributors around the world. UVic’s Dr. Tim Stockwell, director of the Centre for Addictions Research of B.C., compiled the articles and says that although we are getting closer to articulating what is safe and healthy alcohol consumption, we are still a long way from truly knowing how much is okay and how much is a danger to your health.

“The recommendations for pregnant women, young people and the differences between men and women still vary widely and there is a lot of different research out there that creates confusion,” says Stockwell. “The problem is the differences across jurisdictions, not just around the world but even within countries, on what is considered safe alcohol consumption.”

To breakdown some of that confusion, however, Stockwell joined forces with UVic graduate student Kara D. Thompson and UVic psychology professor Dr. Stuart MacDonald to survey 540 young people between the ages of 16 and 25 (54.4 per cent female) on their consumption levels to discover more about what constitutes “low-risk” drinking among young people. The study concluded that more specific guidelines are needed to address amounts and frequency.

To help with those new national guidelines, “Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines,” developed by Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, suggests drinking no more than 10 drinks a week for women (with no more than two drinks a day most days) and 15 drinks a week for men (with no more than three drinks a day most days). In these cases, a drink constitutes one 12-oz. bottle of 5 per cent beer, cider or cooler, a 5-oz. glass of 12 per cent wine, or a 1.5-oz. serving of 40 per cent distilled spirits. The guidelines also suggest that people plan non-drinking days every week to avoid developing a habit, and drink no more than three drinks (for women) and four drinks (for men) on any single occasion.

Other tips include drinking slowly, drinking one non-alcoholic drink for every drink of alcohol, eating before and while you are drinking and the usual avoiding heavy machinery and such. No surprise that the guidelines also recommend that no one starts or increases drinking for health benefits.

To see the compiled recommendations in full, visit the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

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