CCSA updates alcohol consumption guidelines

Photo of an LCBO.
Photo of an LCBO.
Photo by Sadiya Teeple.

On Jan. 17, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) updated their alcohol consumption guidelines.  

The new recommendations state that more than two standard drinks per week, an equivalent to 13.45g of alcohol, is linked to increased risks.  

Further guideline information can be found on the CCSA’s website, however the organization states – “Basically, the more you drink, the higher your risk.” 

Risks associated with alcohol, as outlined by the CCSA, include liver disease, cardiovascular diseases, increased violence and seven types of cancers –  leading experts to suggest putting cancer labels on alcoholic products. 

“I think it is a great idea to put [cancer] labels on the bottle,” Bruce McKay, faculty member of human and social sciences at Wilfrid Laurier University, said.  

“In the case of alcohol, it is not a short list of problems that alcohol causes when people use it to excess, certain types of cancers is one of those, and that has been the motivation for putting those same types of labels on cigarette packaging for the last couple decades and that has been successful.”  

In 2011, when the guidelines were last updated, the CCSA stated 10 drinks a week for women and 15 for men was low-risk. A shocking difference from the new recommendations.  

“I think the surprise this time came from how different the guidelines were given that they came from the same group and that 10 years of new evidence so dramatically changed their thinking on it,” said McKay.  

According to the Canadian Postsecondary Education Alcohol and Drug Use Survey, 84 per cent of students in 2019 and 2020 had consumed alcohol while only 16 per cent of students had heard of CCSA guidelines.  

“I think it is absolutely the case that most students will have gone through some kind of alcohol and drug education program in elementary or high school …” McKay said.  

“The reality is that there is a phenomenon among young people called ‘myopia view’ – where the most immediate consequences of some actions are deemed important while the long term consequences are not important or unbelievable.”  

As for knowledge surrounding the updated guidelines, McKay said, “Did anyone hear about these guidelines a decade ago? No, or they did not remember they heard about them.”  

“Drinking is a social activity,” said a report by the CCSA regarding student alcohol consumption. McKay said, concerning preventive measures, “There needs to be a greater involvement of both the community and the university itself offering other kinds of things to do for the students who want to say no, but need something else to say yes to.”  

“Do we provide alternatives for students to do other things? If you have an evening class for example, what else is there to do?,” said McKay. “If someone sees two or more [drinks] is problematic, what could I do instead? … There really aren’t any other options and we need to provide those options for those who want them.”  

Peer education, Mckay says, is an effective approach to of alcohol overconsumption prevention. “It is much more believable coming from peers than it is coming from someone like me. I can hand information onto peer leaders but coming from the peers, it is just going to be that much more impactful.”  

For more information surrounding the updated guidelines or risks surrounding alcohol, visit the CCSA’s website.

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