It may be difficult to clearly recognize the transition from social use to problem drinking.
But if you consume alcohol to avoid feeling bad or cope with life’s challenges, you may be putting yourself at risk. This section will look at problem drinking, dependency, and how recovery can be achieved.
You can take this brief assessment to see if you may have a problem with alcohol. It takes less than 1 minute. CAGE Assessment for Alcohol Abuse
- Have you felt the need to cut down on your drinking?
- Do you feel annoyed by people complaining about your drinking?
- Do you ever feel guilty about your drinking?
- Do you ever drink an eye-opener in the morning to relieve shakes?
Two or more “Yes” responses suggest that you may be a problem drinker. For a more detailed assessment check out this tool from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. This tool will provide you with personalized feedback that can help you make choices about your alcohol use. CAMH assessment tool
While there is no precise “safe” level of drinking, The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse has developed low risk alcohol drinking guidelines, which provides an indication of recommended low risk drinking levels. While it is important to be aware of these guidelines, it is also important to remember that alcohol affects all people differently. The effect will depend on who you are, what you are drinking and what you are doing while drinking. People who are pregnant, who have certain medical conditions, or who will be driving a vehicle or operating machinery, should avoid alcohol. The low risk drinking guidelines for healthy adults suggest that:
- women should have no more than 10 drinks per week and not more than two drinks most days
- men should have no more than 15 drinks per week and not more than three drinks most days.
What’s considered “a drink”? A standard drink is equal to 13.7 grams of pure alcohol or
- 12-ounces of beer or wine cooler
- 5-ounces of wine
- 1.5-ounces or a “shot” of liquor
One 12-ounce beer has about the same amount of alcohol as one 5-ounce glass of wine, or 1.5-ounce shot of liquor. What matters is the amount of alcohol consumed, not the type of alcoholic drink. If you think you have a problem with alcohol, contact your local mental health and addictions office for help. You can also visit the Service Directory on this website for a listing of services near you.
It is important to note that the best way to ensure your safety when driving, is to avoid consuming any alcohol products. Alcohol is a depressant drug, meaning it slows down parts of your brain affecting your thinking and behaviour, as well as your breathing and heart rate. Your reaction time is slowed and your judgment for decision making can be impaired. It takes a lot longer than most people think for alcohol to pass through the body. On average it takes your body approximately 1.5 hours from the time you stop drinking to process one standard drink. A standard drink of alcohol would be a 12 oz. beer (5% alcohol), 5 oz. of wine (12% alcohol) or a 1.5 of distilled alcohol (rum, rye, gin, vodka, etc. at 40% alcohol). The actual time it takes for alcohol to leave your body can also vary depending on your weight, sex, age, metabolism, how much food you have eaten and whether you are taking medication. If you plan to drink, you should plan another means of transportation. Have someone drop you off so you don’t even have an option to drive home. Call a friend for a ride, call a taxi, walk or plan to spend the night.
Many individuals are dealing with a loved one’s drinking. You are not alone. You are also not responsible for another person’s drinking or subsequent actions. When a family member or loved one is drinking it impacts all family members. We can become ill ourselves as a result of another’s drinking. Outside support is often needed when dealing with the addictions of a family member or loved one. There are groups and family supports which can help. Visit the Service Directory on this website to find services near you.
There are both short and long term risks associated with alcohol use. Regularly drinking to excess can increase your risk of serious illnesses.
- different types of cancers including mouth, throat, breast, liver, bowel and laryngeal;
- high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and liver disease;
- seizures, pancreatitis, low birth weight, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD); and,
- mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
- an increased risk of unintended injuries such as motor vehicle crashes, falls, drowning;
- violence including sexual assault and domestic violence;
- risky sexual behaviors; and,
- other harms such as alcohol poisoning.
Risks for pregnant women:
- miscarriages and stillbirth among pregnant women;
- low birth weight; and,
- fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).
Other risks can include social problems such as unemployment, family/relational problems and lost productivity.
If you want to seek help for your drinking contact your local mental health and addictions office. You can also visit the Service Directory on this website for a listing of services near you.