Alcohol & You
Drinking alcohol is part of our society. For many people, drinking helps us mark special occasions, socialize, and wind down. But alcohol is also linked to problems that can affect the people we care about. These problems include injuries, diseases such as cancer and heart disease, and social problems like violence and money problems.
A healthy relationship with alcohol
It’s all about knowing yourself, respecting boundaries, and balancing the good and the not-so-good effects of alcohol to stay in a healthy or “low risk” zone.
This “low risk” zone is handily summed up in Canada’s Low Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines. These are straightforward, science-based recommendations for alcohol consumption plus tips for lowering your risk. The guidelines answer the question of how much and how often.
Explore the links below for more information.
Drinking in the time of COVID-19
The pandemic has shifted our daily lives and habits in a big way. On the upside, many people have been able to focus on wellness during this pandemic and are feeling the benefits of cutting down or quitting drinking.
On the downside, the stress, anxiety and lack of routine has led to an increase in unhealthy drinking habits for some. The stress that this pandemic has unleashed can make it difficult to cope. Some of us may find alcohol to be a familiar companion and easy coping strategy.
If you find your drinking habits changing for the worse during COVID-19, you’re not alone. Research shows that people are drinking more during this pandemic. It doesn’t take a lot for our relationship with alcohol to get complicated. Luckily, there are things you can do to assess the situation and switch up to healthier options.
Assess your Drinking
Do you think you have a healthy relationship with alcohol? How can you tell?
The first step is to pay attention, using these simple CAT questions.
Count: How many standard drinks you consume in a day and over a week? How does this compare to the Low Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines?
Ask: What are the typical reasons or situations in which you drink alcohol? How has this changed in the last several months? How is your alcohol consumption affecting your life now?
Think: What makes you feel good, safe, happy, and well during this time? For some it can be exercise, mindfulness, connecting online, or even getting some fresh air. For others, maybe reaching out for support or talking it out.
Know the signs
Cutting down is always a good idea, but there are some signs that alcohol might be becoming a problem for you.
- Drinking in excess of the Low Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines
- Drinking to cope with stress, anxiety and negative emotions
- Changes in your drinking habits, such as drinking earlier in the day, drinking alone, drinking every day, and drinking more than you did before
- Having guilt or hiding your drinking from others
- Noticing an impact on your school, work, relationships or other responsibilities
- Not being able to stop drinking even if you think you should
- Experiencing dependence (needing more alcohol for the same effect) or withdrawal symptoms
Getting Support to Cut Down or Quit
Many people are saying “less is more” to alcohol and feeling the benefits. Even small changes can have a big impact.
If you want to cut down, try using digital supports or online communities to get you started and keep you motivated.
- Saying When: This app is can help reduce or quit drinking, available for Apple iPhone and Android devices. Saying When is designed for people who are concerned about their drinking, but do not have a severe alcohol use disorder.
- Hello Sunday Morning: Join an international movement of folks taking charge of their drinking.
- Thunderbird Wellness App: A free app providing culturally safe mental health and substance use supports; download from the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store
- Dry February: Declare February an alcohol-free month and support Canadian cancer research at the same time.
If you are concerned about your drinking, you’re not alone. Help is available. Talk to your health care provider, or try one of the supports listed below.
Wellness Together Canada: Mental Health and Substance Use Support - Get connected to mental health and substance use support, resources, and counselling with a mental health professional. Free and available 24/7.
NAN HOPE – phone, text or live chat support for NAN communities and Citizens with mental health and addictions needs.
Talk4Healing – Confidential, culturally safe help line for Indigenous women in Ontario.
To find services in your area:
ConnexOntario @ 1-866-531-2600 – Free, confidential help to find support for addictions, mental health and problem gambling, available 24/7.
Call 211 or visit 211North.ca to find local community, health and government services
Visit https://www.tbdhu.com/health-topics/mental-health for a listing of supports in your community or online.
If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, the safest choice is to drink no alcohol at all. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause permanent birth defects and brain damage to your baby. There is no safe time to drink alcohol during pregnancy. It’s always a good idea to speak to a health care provider about any alcohol use during pregnancy. Partners can support mom-to-be by helping her have an alcohol-free pregnancy Be Safe: Have an Alcohol-free Pregnancy (PDF)
Alcohol & the Law
Drinking and Driving Drinking and driving poses a serious health risk to communities. MADD Canada estimates that 40% of all traffic collisions are a result of alcohol misuse. The Ontario Ministry of Transportation reported in 2015 (using 2013 stats) that 25% of fatal car accidents involve drinking and driving. Those charged with drinking and driving – including operating off-road vehicles such as dirt bikes and ATVs, snowmobiles, and boats – face fines, jail time, and potential loss of driving privileges, job, family and friends.
Be a Responsible Host
As the host of a party, you are responsible for injuries and damages that occur as a result of the alcohol you provide during and after any events you organize such as house parties, weddings and company parties.
- Having a Party - a resource for hosts from the Centre of Addiction and Mental Health.
- Hosting a gathering during COVID-19? Visit our Safer Socializing and Gatherings page
- The SmartServe program educates servers on their responsibilities and obligations that are legally associated with providing alcohol. Visit www.smartserve.ca for more information.
Alcohol & the Community
Let's Start a Conversation about Alcohol: Community Report
Released in 2016 this community report describes alcohol use, harms and potential actions in Thunder Bay District to reduce alcohol-related harms. Visit Let's Start a Conversation resource page to access this report and accompanying resources.
Municipal Alcohol Policy
Research clearly links alcohol availability to alcohol-related harms and points to Municipal Alcohol Policies (MAPs) as important tools to prevent and minimize the harmful effects of alcohol use. For more information visit our Municipal Alcohol Policy page.