New alcohol drinking guidelines to be released by 2022

Earlier in March, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) launched a six-week public consultation as part of its plan to update its existing guidelines for the safe consumption of alcohol.

The original guidelines, titled ‘Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines’ were first released by CCSA in 2011 in order to help Canadians make informed decisions about drinking. According to the CCSA website, the 2022 update will aim to “align the guidelines with the latest research on the risks and benefits associated with alcohol.”

The public consultation and plans to update Canada’s drinking guidelines follow reports of Canadians consuming more alcohol during the pandemic. Moreover, the agency states on its website that the evidence of the association between drinking alcohol and physical, mental and social harms has evolved since the previous guidelines were published, and the goal of the planned updates is to align the existing guidelines with the latest research on the risks and benefits associated with alcohol.

“We want to hear from a number of people in Canada and ensure that we receive a broad range of perspectives related to alcohol and alcohol consumption in Canada. This includes members of the public, as well as professionals from a variety of sectors, including health and social services, health research, education and industry”, said CCSA’s Chief Executive Officer, Rita Notarandrea, in a statement released by CCSA.

Canadians will be able to share their views on the current alcohol guidelines through the online consultation survey accessible here, on CCSA’s website until April 18, 2021. The information collected as part of the consultation will help to inform the development of the updated alcohol guidelines.

The 21-month guideline update initiative is led by CCSA, with funding support provided by Health Canada. The initiative involves scientists with expertise in the health impacts of alcohol consumption, as well as guideline development and knowledge translation, and representatives from federal, provincial and territorial governments, as well as national organizations.

“Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines are for Canadians so it’s important that they have the opportunity to have their say because the more we know, the better our responses will be. It’s important that these perspectives inform our guideline update,” Notarandrea said.

The current CCSA guidelines suggest avoiding consuming more than 10 drinks per week for women and 15 for men, as well as not exceeding two or three drinks per day. The CCSA has also suggested that Canadians aged 24 years or younger should “never exceed the daily limits.”

So far, a survey carried out by Statistics Canada has shown that roughly 25% of Canadians report increases in their consumption of alcohol during the current pandemic. In addition, stress, boredom, and isolation were listed as some of the top reasons cited for the increase in drinking.

Feedback received from the public consultation will be summarized in a report and made available on CCSA’s website this summer, while the final updates to the guidelines will be completed by March 2022.

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