What's a Drink?
It’s important to know that the definition of a standard drink can vary based on the type of alcohol you’re consuming. For example, filling up your red solo cup to the brim with wine actually is the equivalent of about 2 ½ drinks. Canada’s Low-Risk Drinking Guidelines defines a single drink as any one of the following:
5 oz. /
12 oz. /
12 oz. /
1.5 oz. / 43 ml
Note that some drinks have more alcohol like some coolers, fortified wines or specialty drinks.
For example, a cooler may have 7% alcohol, so it’s not a standard drink. Some drinks, like port can have 20% alcohol content or a liqueur like brandy can have an alcohol content of 25%.
Then there are specialty drinks, like a martini or Long Island Iced Tea which combine a variety of alcohols. A martini for instance may have up to three shots of various types of alcohol, so one martini could equal 3 beers. Long Island Iced Tea has four shots, so one drink equals four beers.
Knowing what a standard drink is helps you lower related short- and long-term health risks.
When a person drinks liquor their Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) increases.
What is Blood Alcohol Concentration?
Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is the amount of alcohol in your blood stream. Basically it’s a measurement in milligrams of alcohol per 100 ml of blood. It’s written as milligrams percent, or mg%. In Canada it is a criminal offence to drive with a BAC of over 80 mg% (often referred to as “.08”).
People with alcohol in their systems are less alert; their inhibitions are lower and their judgment impaired, which causes them to do things they usually wouldn’t do. People with a high BAC may not notice warning signs, like their body telling them they’ve had enough to drink, and they don’t react as quickly to things around them.
Manitoba has adopted a tougher stance on impaired driving by reducing the allowed driver BAC to 50 mg% (or “.05”). Although 80 mg% remains the level for a criminal charge, drivers who are found to have a BAC higher than 50 mg% will receive an immediate licence suspension, a fine, have their vehicle impounded and will have to pay a fee to reinstate their licence.
You can reduce your long-term health risks by drinking no more than:
Females: 10 drinks a week, with no more than 2 drinks a day most days.
Males: 15 drinks a week, with no more than 3 drinks a day most days.
Why is there a difference in the low-risk drinking limits between men and women?
It takes females longer to process alcohol than men. This means women will have more alcohol in their bodies than men even if they drink the same amount of alcohol.
Here’s why women are more at risk than men:
On average, women weigh less than men, and smaller people reach higher blood-alcohol levels than larger people.
Kilogram for kilogram, women have less water in their bodies than men do – even if a woman and a man of the same weight drink an equal amount of alcohol, the woman’s blood-alcohol concentration will be higher.
Women have less alcohol-metabolizing enzymes and digest alcohol in their stomach differently than men.
When zero's the limit.
Don't drink when you're:
Driving a vehicle. Alcohol and driving NEVER mix.
Pregnant or planning to become pregnant.
Breastfeeding an infant.
Making important decisions.
Doing any kind of dangerous physical activity.
Using machinery or tools.
Taking medicine or other drugs that interact with alcohol, including cannabis.
Living with mental or physical health problems.
Living with alcohol dependence.
Responsible for the safety of others.
WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY RISKS? IT’S JUST ALCOHOL, RIGHT?
These are low-risk guidelines, not no-risk guidelines. It’s a fact that risks increase when alcohol is involved. Most Canadians know that drinking alcohol increases the long-term risks of health conditions like cirrhosis, high-blood pressure, stroke, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), and some types of cancer. But did you know that there are short-term risks of drinking? Drinking alcohol increases your risk of injuries from motor vehicle crashes, falls, and abusive or violent behaviour. Drinking also increases your risk of other harms, like alcohol poisoning, losing control, making bad decisions or embarrassing yourself. To reduce your risk, drink with people you know and where you know you’ll be in a safe environment. Stay within the weekly limits of 10 drinks a week for women, and 15 drinks a week for men.
WHAT ABOUT SPECIAL OCCASIONS?
We all have reasons to celebrate and often times; alcohol is involved when there is a special occasion. You can reduce your risk of harm including injuries from falls, motor vehicle crashes, or abusive or violent behaviour by limiting alcoholic drinks to no more than 3 drinks for women or 4 drinks for men on these occasions.
Always plan to drink in a safe environment with people you know and trust.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS OF DRINKING MY WEEKLY LIMIT IN ONE NIGHT OR OVER THE WEEKEND?
Risks go up with each drink. Heavy drinking episodes increase the risks of short-term harms like injuries and alcohol poisoning. The weekly limits are calculated to be just that—a weekly limit, not a daily limit.
IF I DRINK AT LEVELS HIGHER THAN THOSE IN THE GUIDELINES, DOES THAT MEAN I’M AN ALCOHOLIC?
No. Alcohol dependence is a complex and serious health condition. If you’re worried about your drinking, talk to your doctor or contact the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba’s Provincial Adult Addiction Information Line toll-free at 1-855-662-6605.
WHO CAME UP WITH THESE GUIDELINES, ANYWAY?
Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines were developed by a team of independent Canadian and international experts in partnership with the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse. All provinces, including Manitoba, have endorsed the low-risk alcohol drinking guidelines. The Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority of Manitoba (LGCA) regulates liquor, gambling and cannabis in the province. Part of the LGCA’s role is to educate Manitobans about responsible gambling and the responsible consumption of alcohol and cannabis.