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Low-risk Drinking Guidelines: A guide for physicians and healthcare professionals

These guidelines were published by the Collège des Médecins du Québec and ÉducAlcool

Download the Guide (PDF)

Untitled-1This guide is intended for physicians and health care professionals to help them explain the low-risk drinking guidelines to their patients. It is an essential companion to the brochure on the subject, produced for general public.

Not uncommonly, people who have heard about a publication, read about it in a newspaper or seen an ad on television will ask their physician or health care professional for more information. It is therefore important to ensure a consistent message, based on the latest scientific data. That is the reason for this guide, the purpose of which is to define moderate drinking and reduce the incidence of alcohol-related harm through screening, brief intervention and referral to specialized services.

The guidelines apply to adults aged 25 to 65. They are not intended to encourage people who choose not to drink for cultural, religious or other reasons, to take up drinking; nor are they intended to incite people to start drinking to achieve health benefits.



Advise patients:

  • To have some non-drinking days every week to minimize tolerance and habit formation.
  • Not to increase drinking to the upper limit, since health benefits are greatest at less than 1 drink per day.
  • That adults with reduced tolerance (whether due to low body weight, being under 25, or over 65, or not being accustomed to drinking alcohol) should not exceed the upper limit.


Advise patients:

  • The risk of injury increases with each additional drink in many situations.
  • To drink at the upper limit only occasionally and always stay within the weekly limits.
  • To drink with meals and not on an empty stomach.
  • To have no more than 2 standard drinks in any 3-hour period.
  • To alternate alcoholic drinks with caffeine-free, non-alcoholic beverages.
  • To avoid risky situations and activities.

Untitled-4Advise patients to abstain from alcohol when:

  • Operating any kind of vehicle, machinery or tools.
  • Using medications or other drugs that interact with alcohol.
  • Engaging in sports or other potentially dangerous physical activities.
  • Working.
  • Making important decisions.
  • Responsible for the care or supervision of others.
  • Suffering from serious physical illness, mental illness or alcohol dependence.

Untitled-5Advise patients:

  • The safest option during pregnancy or when planning to become pregnant is not to drink alcohol at all.
  • Alcohol in the mother’s bloodstream can harm the developing foetus. While the risk from light drinking during pregnancy appears very low, there is no threshold for alcohol use in pregnancy that has been definitively proven to be safe.
  • Nursing mothers should not drink alcohol right before a feeding, as some of the alcohol passes into the breast milk and may affect the baby.
  • Women who plan to drink alcohol can prevent or limit alcohol from reaching their babies by nursing or pumping breast milk before they drink.

Untitled-6Advise patients that alcohol can affect healthy physical and mental development in children and adolescents.

For youth (up to age 18), advise patients that:

  • Many young people do not drink.
  • They should delay starting to drink until they are 18.
  • If they have decided to start drinking, they should do so in a safe environment, under parental guidance and limit their intake to 1-2 standard drinks no more than once or twice per week.

For young adults (age 18 to 24), advise patients that:

  • From age 18 to 24, women should never have more than 2 drinks per day and men should never have more than 3 drinks in one day. 

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