What are Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines?

Contributed by Carol Harrison

Drink responsibly. Drink in moderation. Limit your alcohol. We’ve all heard these messages but what do they really mean – what exactly are the limits? That’s where Canada’s Low Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines1 come into play.

The Guidelines clearly define moderate drinking for “low risk”.

Developed by a team of independent Canadian and international experts the Guidelines are a key component of the National Alcohol Strategy.

Together, the Guidelines help to promote a culture of moderation, support healthy lifestyles, and have received the support of many respected national and regional organizations in Canada.

While most Canadians who drink alcohol do so within these Guidelines,3 many may not be familiar with the actual limits. Knowing the Guidelines is an important way to take charge of your health. Note these are low-risk limits, not targets for how much alcohol to drink.


On special occasions they recommend:

  • For women, no more than 3 drinks on any single occasion.
  • For men, no more than 4 drinks on any single occasion.

Do the Guidelines apply to everyone?

They do not apply to everyone. Your medical doctor may offer alternative guidance personalized to suit your health and well-being, such as lower limits or avoiding alcohol altogether.

When should you avoid alcohol?

Do not drink any alcohol if you:

  • Plan to be pregnant, are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Live with alcohol dependence.
  • Are advised not to by your doctor (due to medications, treatments, physical or mental conditions etc.).
  • Need to be alert (for example, to drive, operate machinery or tools, care for others, participate in physical activities, make important decisions)

Where can I find out more about alcohol and health concerns I may have?

The relationship between alcohol and health is complex and can be dependent on many factors such as age, gender, health, family history and alcohol drinking patterns. If you have concerns about alcohol and your health, talk to your medical doctor.

You may also find these resources from the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse helpful:


  1. Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines, 2012. Available at: http://www.ccsa.ca/Resource%20Library/2012-Canada-Low-Risk-Alcohol-Drinking-Guidelines-Brochure-en.pdf. Accessed February 2017.
  2. Official Supporters of Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines: http://www.ccsa.ca/Eng/topics/alcohol/drinking-guidelines/Pages/Supporters-LRDG.aspx. Accessed February 10, 2017.
  3. Health Canada. Canadian Alcohol and Drug Use Monitoring Survey. Summary of Results for 2012 (on low-risk alcohol use). Available at: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hc-ps/drugs-drogues/stat/_2012/summary-sommaire-eng.php. Accessed February 2017.