Alcohol and health

Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines help people moderate their drinking and understand the risks, so they make informed decisions.

The guidelines give adults information on how to cut the risks associated with alcohol so they can avoid health and personal problems (e.g., injuries, birth defects, cancer, stroke or high blood pressure).

The guidelines set limits, not targets and don’t prescribe a specific amount to drink.

When people consume beyond the guidelines, it puts them at greater risk for injuries, health and personal problems. The guidelines are designed to cover all aspects of drinking, including situations when you should avoid alcohol altogether.

1 drink standard

One drink equals:

  • 341 ml (12 oz.) bottle of 5% beer, cider, or cooler
  • 142 ml (5 oz.) glass of 12% wine
  • 43 ml (1.5 oz.) serving of 40% distilled alcohol (e.g., rye, gin, rum)

Daily/weekly limits

Reduce long-term health risks

Over time, even moderate drinking can increase your risk of some chronic diseases, including cancer. Always have a couple of non-drinking days each week. Follow these guidelines to reduce your long-term health risk:

  • women: 0-2 drinks a day, up to 10 drinks a week
  • men: 0-3 drinks a day, up to 15 drinks a week

Reduce risk for injury and harm

Once in a while you might have an extra drink, but it’s important to stay within the weekly limits. Follow these guidelines to reduce your short-term health risk and related harm:

  • women: no more than 3 drinks on any single occasion
  • men: no more than 4 drinks on any single occasion

When not to drink

Do not drink when:

  • driving any vehicle or using machinery or tools
  • pregnant or planning to become pregnant
  • doing any kind of dangerous physical activity
  • living with mental or physical health problems or alcohol dependence
  • responsible for other people’s safety
  • making important decisions
  • using medication or other drugs that interact with alcohol

If you drink

You should:

  • not exceed the daily and weekly limits
  • drink slowly (do not have more than 2 drinks in 3 hours)
  • have 1 non-alcoholic drink for every alcoholic drink
  • eat before and while you are drinking
  • make sure you have non-drinking days each week to avoid developing a habit
  • always consider your age, sex, body weight and any health problems


If you are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning to become pregnant, the safest choice is to avoid all alcohol. Talk to your health care provider to get more information.

Youth and alcohol

Alcohol can harm the way the body and brain develop in youth. Young adults (19 to 24 years old) should never go over the daily and weekly limits.

Supporting research

The guidelines were developed by a team of independent Canadian and international experts, guided by the report Alcohol and Health in Canada: A Summary of Evidence and Guidelines for Low-Risk Drinking.