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4 Realistic Tips For Drinking Less

Two addiction psychiatrists share their best advice for cutting down.
Illustration of different shapes of glasses filled with pink liquid. (Illustration: iStock)

The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) recently announced new alcohol consumption guidelines that mark a drastic shift. Previously, the CCSA advised that up to 10 standard drinks a week for women (and 15 for men) presented a low health risk for developing conditions like various types of cancer—including breast cancer and colon cancer—and heart disease. The CCSA has now revised this figure to two drinks per week or less for all adults.

So what does this mean, exactly? According to the CCSA, two or fewer drinks per week puts people at a one in 1,000 risk of premature death—which it considers low risk. Drinking three to six servings of alcohol a week increases this risk to moderate, meaning a one in 100 risk of premature death. And consuming more than seven drinks per week further increases the risk of negative health consequences.

If you’ve been happily following the previous guidelines, the new ones could feel unattainable. But any reduction in the amount you drink is good for you. Here, two addiction psychiatrists offer their best advice for drinking less.

Refamiliarize yourself with the size of a standard drink

“It's important that people accurately measure how much they're drinking,” says Dr. Jennifer Brasch, lead addiction psychiatrist at St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton in Hamilton, Ont.

Pouring drinks using the standard drink calculator will help you recognize how much you're really drinking.

“If you drink wine at home, pour five ounces into a wine glass to see what it looks like. If you have mixed drinks and you don't use a shot glass, start using a shot glass,” Brasch says. “If you go out and order a fancy cocktail or two, take note of how much alcohol is in a drink.”

Find fun activities that don’t involve alcohol

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Although this may seem obvious, our social plans often default to "going for drinks." Changing up this routine can be a basic but essential step. Try going for a walk, meeting up for bubble tea or going to the movies instead.

“Scheduling activities where alcohol is not a central figure can help,” says Dr. Josée Lynch, an addiction psychiatrist with the Centre for Mental Health at the University Health Network in Toronto.

BYO non-alcoholic beverages (they taste better now, we swear!)

There has been a slew of new non-alcoholic beverages hitting the shelves in 2023—including these 17 that our cocktail writer swears are absolutely delicious.

“Some no-alcohol beers look just like their counterparts with five percent alcohol, [they] taste very good and no one would be the wiser if you were bringing your own beverages [to],” says Brasch.

Start small

“Any reduction is a step in the right direction in terms of reducing risk,” says Lynch. Brasch agrees, and suggests trying to reduce your weekly consumption by one drink at a time. “Harm reduction starts with reducing. If you're drinking 10 drinks a week, going from 10 to two seems impossible,” she says. “Maybe you could go from 10 to nine and once that's not too hard, then you go from nine to eight.”

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