New alcohol consumption guidelines require a phased approach, experts say

New national guidance released Tuesday by the Canadian Centre for Substance Use and Addiction now recommends adults only have up to two drinks per week.

It’s a significant decrease from what was previously thought to be safe, which was two to three drinks per day.

However, cutting back on drinking can seem overwhelming for some and so experts recommend people start with small steps.

“It’s not no alcohol. It’s a harm reduction approach, probably understanding that most Canadians would have a difficult time with full abstinence from alcohol,” said psychologist Dominique Morisano.

Long-term alcohol use can affect the body and mind significantly and experts recommend phasing it out.

Initiatives like the Canadian Cancer Society’s ‘Dry February’ or the more widely-known ‘Dry January’ can also encourage cutting back but it is more of a cold turkey approach.

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So to really implement an alcohol culture change, Holmes suggests an approach similar to smoking cessation.

“Shifts that happened with smoking tobacco include a greater understanding of the health risks associated with smoking tobacco and policy changes really to shape the environment to reduce and to help people quit smoking,” said Elizabeth Holmes, Canadian Cancer Society health policy senior manager.

Holmes said over 40 per cent of Canadians are not aware that there is a link between alcohol and cancer risk.

Dr. Alan Katz from the U of M’s Max Rady College of Medicine said there’s no one specific thing that can cause cancer but the evidence showing alcohol is a major factor is undeniable.

“(Alcohol) increases the risk of significant ill health effects such as cancers, heart disease, high blood pressure,” Katz said.

“We can do more to protect people by drinking less.”

Katz said the most prominent cancers that are linked to the substance are breast cancer and colorectal cancer.

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“More than two drinks a day increases the risk of cancer, and the more you drink, the higher that risk.”

Many Canadians are turning to alternative beverages instead of alcohol

A new Winnipeg-based company is a dedicated non-alcoholic retailer selling alcohol-free craft beer, wines, spirits, and cocktails from around the world.

“When we go to markets people are blown away by the amount of different products there actually are now. Most people have never heard of non-alcoholic tequilas and whiskeys and other spirits,” said Shane Halliburton, The Sobr Market founder.

The Centre is also calling for the federal government to mandate warning labels on beverage containers similar to cigarettes.

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Most substance abuse calls to paramedics involve alcohol

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