Last week the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) released an Update of Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines.
The guidelines suggest Canadians drastically reduce the amount of alcohol they consumer by recommending only two drinks a week. Previous recommendations in 2011 suggested Canadians limit themselves to 10 drinks a week for women, and 15 drinks a week for men.
Karen Anthony-Burns coordinator of the Prince Albert Alcohol Steering Committee said the recommendations come from a trusted source, and should help spark a much-needed conversation.
“It’s really important to have those voices with credentials behind them letting us know that alcohol is really not good for us and that maybe we need to reconsider our drinking habits (and) maybe we need to look at that health aspect,” Anthony-Burns said. “I would say that we really support responsible use (and) we support reducing harms related to it.”
The CCSA called for a substantial reduction in consumption, warning that seemingly moderate drinking poses a number of serious health risks, including cancer, heart disease and stroke.
“It’s really interesting to see this and I think with them putting that out that that is going to help make a change in the country,” Anthony-Burns explained.
The new guidelines were funded by Health Canada. The public summary of the report calls for people to “rethink the way they drink”, a sentiment Anthony-Burns agrees with.
“Alcohol is such a normal part of our everyday life. It really is. It is a part of celebrations all of the time and we know that it is impacting our health,” she said.
She explained that the new guidelines may make people look at and reconsider their alcohol consumption.
“Maybe people will want to do a dry-ish January or a dry-ish February. Maybe they won’t cut it out but they will look at their use and determine how many dry days do I need to have a week, how can I limit the amount that I am drinking,” she said.
She added that the dramatic shift was important.
“It was even touted as having health benefits for a while,” she said. “I think everybody heard that red wine is good for your heart and they have also debunked that, so I think we must make sure we look at our use and look at our health and think about (if) these new guidelines are something we want to incorporate into healthy living.”
The CCSA also suggested there could be benefits in mandatory labelling of alcoholic beverages such as warning of possible health risks and including guidance on consumption standards.
In its measurements, the CCSA considers a standard drink to be a 12oz (355ml) serving of 5 per cent-alcohol beer, a 5oz (148ml) glass of 12 per cent-alcohol wine or a shot glass of 4o per cent spirits.
The steering committee advocates healthy living and do not have a complete objection to use but advocate moderation.
She explained that the group received funding from the Saskatchewan Prevention Institute this tear and made printouts of the 2011 guidelines and distributed them through liquor retailers in Prince Albert.
“We knew these new guidelines were coming and we felt that there were a lot of people who weren’t even aware of the existing guidelines. So, we felt that it was important to get that information into people’s hands and maybe it is sparking a conversation.” Anthony-Burns said.
She explained that starting those conversations about alcohol use is what they want.
“We just want people to have the facts and make decisions based on those facts,” she said.
The co-chair of the CCSA panel that drafted the guidelines is Dr. Peter Butt from the University of Saskatchewan.