The effects of too much alcohol
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While the majority of alcohol consumers in the province drink responsibly most of the time, there are occasions where people drink in ways that put their health and safety at risk. Research shows that:
- Alcohol is one of the top three leading risk factors for death from cancer;
- One in three people experience harm from someone else's drinking;
- There are over 1,800 deaths, over 18,000 hospital admissions, and over 80,000 alcohol-related crimes every year in BC;
- 40% of car crashes in BC are alcohol-related;
- Healthcare and policing costs total $900+ million per year, almost equaling to the revenue generated from alcohol.
Alcohol is a particular problem if the drinker is consuming other drugs, operating a motor vehicle or pregnant. The combination of alcohol with energy drinks have become increasingly popular - this can be dangerous given the ability of energy drinks to mask feelings of intoxication, making people feel less drunk than they really are.
The modern view of alcohol
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1. Governments and the public are concerned about various issues related to alcohol over-consumption, including chronic diseases like cancer and cardiovascular disease, injuries and car crashes along with overall public safety.
2. As a result, the Centre for Addictions Research of BC, the BC Ministry of Health, and other organizations across Canada are promoting low-risk drinking guidelines.
3. Young people are more aware than ever before of alcohol-related issues, as is evident in dry grads and designated-driver programs.
4. Laws and regulations have also changed as a result of the mounting evidence on the harms related to alcohol. For example, injured parties from alcohol related incidents are taking their cases to court, where, increasingly, judges assign a percentage of the fault to commercial hosts.
5. Courts are placing an expanding responsibility on the owners, managers and staff of licensed establishments to provide responsible beverage service.
The impact of responsible beverage service
Implementing a responsible beverage service program in every alcohol-serving establishment in BC can decrease service-related alcohol problems. An RBS program provides servers, managers and licensees with the knowledge necessary to meet their responsibilities, including eliminating the sale and service of liquor to minors and reducing over-consumption of alcohol in licensed establishments.
How much is too much?
To answer this question, experts from across Canada came together to develop Canada's Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines. These guidelines can help Canadians moderate their alcohol consumption and reduce their immediate and long-term alcohol-related harm.
Canada's low-risk alcohol drinking guidelines
Drinking is a personal choice. If you choose to drink, these guidelines can help you decide when, where, why and how. Low-risk drinking helps to promote a culture of moderation and supports healthy lifestyles.
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- 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.
- Beer 341 ml (12 oz.) 5% alcohol content
- Cider/Cooler 341 ml (12 oz.) 5% alcohol content
- Wine 142 ml (5 oz.) 12% alcohol content
- Distilled Alcohol (rye, gin, rum, etc.) 43 ml (1.5 oz.) 40% alcohol content
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.
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.
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
If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, or about to breastfeed, the safest choice is to drink no alcohol at all.
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 above.
Youth in their late teens to age 24 years should never exceed the daily and weekly limits outlined in Your limits.
Source: Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse
The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse changes lives by bringing people and knowledge together to reduce the harm of alcohol and other drugs on society. We partner with public, private and nongovernmental organizations to improve the health and safety of Canadians. Visit the website to find out more: www.ccsa.ca