Drinking Safely

Stay safe while drinking

Drinking safely is important to your wellbeing and others’. Things you can do to stay safe: 

  • Keep track of how many standard drinks you have per week  
  • Set a target to reduce your drinking.  
  • Stick to the limits you have set for yourself.  
  • Read the label. Choose drinks with a lower percentage of alcohol.
  • Drink slowly and in small sips. 
  • Have a pitcher of water on hand.
  • For every drink of alcohol, have one non-alcoholic drink. 
  • Try some alcohol-free alternatives. 
  • Eat food prior to drinking. 
  • Never drink and drive. 
  • Never ride with someone who you suspect is impaired. 
  • It is okay not to drink alcohol! You don’t need to explain your health choices to anyone. 
Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)

 Your BAC is amount of alcohol in your bloodstream often referred to as a percentage. 

  • Your body is able to process and remove about one standard drink of alcohol per hour.
  • The speed that your body breaks down alcohol varies based on your age, health, sex, size, and food intake at the time of drinking. 
  • A BAC of 0.05 or higher puts you at increased risk of short-term alcohol related harms

Use the BAC Chart - Smart Serve tool to help estimate your BAC.

What is a standard drink?
  • 341 ml (12 oz.) bottle 5 per cent alcohol (beer, cider, coolers).
  • 43 ml (1.5 oz.) shot of 40 per cent hard liquor (vodka, rum, gin, whiskey).
  • 142 ml (5 oz.) glass of 12 per cent wine.

Risky drinking

Some ways of drinking are riskier than others. Avoid these drinking behaviours to prevent harms related to alcohol.

Mixing with other substances


Mixing alcohol and cannabis increases impairment, which can lead to risky choices. Simultaneous use of alcohol and cannabis are associated with increased intoxication and impairment which increases the risk of injury, falls or death. Avoid drinking and using cannabis by choosing one if using. 


Mixing alcohol with caffeine can mask the effects of alcohol. This can lead to binge drinking, impaired driving, and increased risk of injury or harm. Avoid mixing energy drinks or caffeinated beverages to stay safe. 



Drinking alcohol while taking medications can change how your body responds to the medications. Talk to your pharmacist or your healthcare provider about any potential interactions between alcohol and your medications. 


Other substances

Drinking alcohol while using other substances can cause additional harm. Your body may respond differently while under the influence of these substances. Avoid mixing multiple substances and have someone you trust with you as a safety measure. 

Impaired driving or cycling

Impairment begins with the first drink. Both alcohol and drugs impair thinking, judgment, perception and reaction time. Plan a safe ride with a friend, use public transportation (Grand River Transit),  taxi, or a ride sharing service (i.e. Lyft, Uber). Don’t drink and drive.

Binge drinking and alcohol poisoning

Binge drinking is having many drinks on one occasion:  

  • Five or more drinks for a male 
  • Four or more drinks for a female

Alcohol poisoning can be a consequence of binge drinking. This can cause areas of the brain that control basic life-support functions to shut down. These functions include: 

  • Breathing 
  • Heart rate 
  • Temperature control 

This puts you at increased risk of coma and/or death. 

Know the signs of alcohol poisoning

  • Unconsciousness or semi-consciousness; the person cannot be awakened 
  • Cold, clammy, pale or bluish skin 
  • Slow breathing (less than eight breaths per minute) or irregular breathing (with ten seconds or more between breaths) 
  • Vomiting when unconscious and not waking up after vomiting 

Remember: not everyone with alcohol poisoning will show the signs listed above.  

What to do if someone shows signs of alcohol poisoning

  • Call 911 immediately and do not leave the person alone.
  • Use the recovery position to roll the person on his or her side. 
  • Never leave the person on their back because they can choke on their vomit. 
  • Stay with them until help arrives. 
  • Monitor their breathing.

Recovery position

  1. Raise the person's closest arm above their head. Prepare to roll them toward you. 
  2. Gently roll the person's entire body. Guard their head as you roll them. 
  3. Tilt head up to maintain airway. Tuck nearest hand under cheek to help maintain head tilt. 
  4. Stay with them until help arrives. 

Please visit Hey, are you okay? from Health Canada for more information.

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