The Canadian Centre for Substance Use and Addiction has posted an interesting study on their website (Nanos study April 2020).
They say 25% of Canadians are drinking more during the COVID-19 pandemic. They cite contributing factors such as lack of routine schedule, stress and boredom. As a society we certainly have found this time to be disruptive, uncertain and stressful.
I am not opposed to drinking and I do enjoy a glass of wine. However, when I hear of this possible overuse I feel concerned. I am not certain people are fully aware of the potential impact of the decisions they are making and how it may affect their physical, mental and social health.
I think many people know that alcohol consumption can affect your liver, but other body systems and organs can be damaged too. The heart, brain, kidneys and digestive systems can also be affected.
The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction and Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, has published recommendations for safe drinking guidelines and the Wellington Guelph Drug Strategy have also released the same.
Please note that these are guidelines. What is safe for you and your health should be discussed with your doctor. Remember alcohol may cause negative reactions when mixed with certain medications or health conditions. To reduce risks attributed to drinking, men should have no more than three standard drinks a day and no more than 15 drinks a week. Women should have no more than two standards drinks a day and no more than 10 drinks a week (https://ccsmh.ca/substance-use-addiction/alcohol-guidelines/).
It is also important to plan for a few days during the week when you do not drink at all. This decreases the likelihood of dependency.
So, what is a standard drink? The guidelines say standard drinks are as follows:
– one beer or cooler is 12 oz and 5% alcohol;
– one glass of Wine is 5 oz of 12% alcohol;
– one shot of spirits (distilled alcohol, rum, gin, whiskey, vodka, etc) is 1.5 oz .
It is important to know these amounts because it can be easy to drink more than you intend. For instance, some restaurants and bars offer wine in 6, 9 or 12 oz glasses. A friend of mine thought that the medium size must be a standard drink so ordered the 9 oz glass. Now that we know a standard drink of wine is 5 oz, she was actually consuming almost two in one glass.
I attended a conference once and the presenter brought out trays of cocktail glasses in all shapes and sizes. She asked us to pour water into the glasses demonstrating the amount we would serve if we were pouring drinks at home. Then she brought out measuring cups and asked us to measure how much we actually would have consumed. Most of us had poured 2 to 2.5 times more than a standard drink would be. That really throws our safe drinking amounts out of whack!
Some more good tips recommended by the Wellington Guelph Drug Strategy include having a glass of water between drinks, waiting at least an hour between drinks and eating before or while drinking.
Lastly, when you are considering how much alcohol you use and how often, think of how this may affect others around you. If your family or friends are encouraging you to stop or cut down on your use, please consider their point of view. Sometimes we don’t know ourselves when under the influence of substances and that impact can have long lasting consequences to our lives.
We all know that these are exceptional times and that many people are trying to cope the best way they know how and sometimes people use substances. Be informed about the decisions you are making and if you do chose to use, please make the safest choices you can to reduce the risk and reduce the harms associated with alcohol use.
Submitted by Paula Frappier, education coordinator with Homewood Health Centre and CMHA. The “Open Mind” column is sponsored by community partners who are committed to raising awareness about mental health, reducing stigma and providing information about resources that can help. For local mental health resources/information, visit www.mdsgg.ca or call 1-844-HERE247.
The “Open Mind” column is sponsored by community partners who are committed to raising awareness about mental health, reducing stigma and providing information about resources that can help. For local mental health resources/information, visit www.mdsgg.ca or call 1-844-HERE247.