What are the health risks that come from drinking alcohol?
With Canada significantly reducing its recommended drinking guidelines, Canadians are becoming more aware of the health risks that come from consuming alcohol.
Last week, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) updated its recommendations for the first time in 11 years. The new report warns that no amount of alcohol is safe to consume and recommends consuming no more than two alcoholic drinks per week.
Dr. Erin Knight, a medical lead with Rapid Access to Addictions Medicine (RAAM), noted that the new report is aimed at sharing information so people can make informed decisions when it comes to alcohol.
She added that there’s been a public perception that small amounts of alcohol are helpful for a person’s health; however, the data shows that this is not the case.
“It was really important for [the CCSA] to be able to share that information that even small amounts of alcohol can be detrimental to health in terms of increasing people’s risk for certain types of cancer, as well as increasing risk for cardiovascular disease,” she said in an interview on Tuesday.
Knight explained that having three to six drinks per week brings an increased risk of developing heart disease and cancers, particularly breast and colon cancer. She added that consuming anything above six drinks per week causes a significant increase in other health risks, including liver disease.
“It’s actually at that level, above six drinks per week, where you really see a split between men and women, where women have more significant disease related to alcohol at lower levels than men,” she said. “Up until six drinks per week, it’s about the same.”
THE DIFFICULTIES OF QUITTING
Lindsay Sutherland Boal, founder of She Walks Canada, which is a movement to engage and empower women who are sober and sober curious, said it’s hard to quit drinking because alcohol is “a part of the fabric of our lives.”
“For many of us, we associate alcohol with socializing, celebration, happy hour, which happens every day,” she said.
“It’s just a part of the way that we live and our culture.”
When it comes to whether there’s a middle ground with drinking, Sutherland Boal said it is up to the individual. She said it all comes down to people being honest about the impact of alcohol on their lives.
“If it’s affecting us, if it’s affecting the people around us, you really need to take a serious look at that,” she said.
Knight added that if someone who drinks a substantial amount of alcohol every day makes the decision to stop, they may experience alcohol withdrawal. She said this is one of the more significant withdrawal processes as it puts a person at risk of seizures and delirium.
She recommends seeking medical care if alcohol is a big part of your life and you’re trying to quit.
- With files from CTV News' Rachel Lagace, Nicole Dube and Megan DeLaire
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