Alcohol 101 for Caregivers

Alcohol 101 for Caregivers

The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse has published Canada's Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines. These simple guidelines can help you as a caregiver make responsible choices. According to the guidelines, men should have no more than three drinks per day with a maximum of 15 drinks per week and women should have no more than two drinks per day with a maximum of 10 drinks per week.

What is a Standard Drink?

The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse defines a standard drink as a drink that contains “17.05 ml or 13.45 g of pure alcohol.” The following are equal to one standard drink: 

  • 341 mL (12 oz) bottle of 5 per cent beer, cider, or cooler
  • 142 mL (5 oz) glass of 12 per cent wine
  • 43 mL (1.5 oz) shot of 40 per cent spirits

Are these guidelines surprising? It is not how many drinks per day you consume that is of importance, but how much alcohol you consume. In other words, a glass of vodka on ice accounts for much more than just “one drink.”

When is it Not Safe to Drink Alcohol?

Canada's Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines provide examples of situations when it is not appropriate to drink alcohol. The guidelines specify that you should not drink alcohol before or while operating any kind of vehicle, tools, or machinery. Alcohol should not be consumed while taking medications (both prescription or over-the-counter) or other drugs that interact with alcohol, engaging in sports or other potentially dangerous physical activities, working, or making important decisions. Additionally, it is not safe to drink alcohol if you are pregnant or planning to be, before breastfeeding, while responsible for the care or supervision of others, or if you are living with physical and/or mental health issues or alcohol dependence.

The over-consumption of alcohol is as serious as any other medical condition. According to The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, “After tobacco, alcohol is the substance that causes the most harm in Canada…The over-consumption of alcohol can cause chronic health conditions (such as some cancers and cirrhosis of the liver), diseases, injury and death.” Additionally, addiction can also cause financial issues and relationship strain or conflict within the family.

The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse recommends eating before and while drinking alcohol as well as not consuming more than two alcoholic drinks within a three hour period. They also suggest scheduling “alcohol-free” days throughout the week in order to avoid developing a habit of consuming alcohol on a regular basis.

Remember: Don’t Drink & Drive

It is especially important to have a safe way to return home after consuming alcohol. Make travel accommodations part of the planning that goes into an event such as dinner at a friend’s house or a restaurant. Taxis, public transportation, or a designated driver are all ways that will enable your safe return home and not put others at risk. The designated driver is a person who agrees to consume no alcohol and is able to safely drive a vehicle.

Alcohol is Not an Effective Coping Mechanism

Alcohol is sometimes used to unwind or de-stress after a difficult day or situation, or to try and cope with or manage symptoms of an illness such as PTSD. However, drinking alcohol is not an effective coping mechanism. There are more effective and healthy coping mechanisms that can be used over the longer term to manage stress. Consult with a health care professional if you feel that you need assistance managing stress or coping with the symptoms of an illness. We’ve also written a few articles that can help you manage caregiver stress:

If you or someone you know is using alcohol to cope with stress, consult with a health care professional or call your local helpline for information about treatment for addiction.


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