Five tips for a healthier St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner. For many, it’s a time to celebrate with beer, wine or other spirits. Here are five tips for a healthier St. Patrick’s Day that doesn’t rely on the Luck of the Irish:

Tip 1: Know your risk.

In January 2023, the Canadian Centre for Substance Use and Addiction  released new guidance on the health risks of alcohol to help Canadians make an informed decision about alcohol consumption. The guidance is designed to help you understand (and reduce) your risk.

The only way to completely avoid health risks from alcohol is to not drink. If you do drink, the guidelines specify low risk as 1-2 drinks a week, moderate risk as 3-6 drinks a week, with increasingly high risk at 7+ drinks (or 1+ drink a day). The type of alcohol doesn’t matter either – whether you are consuming wine, beer, cider or spirits – they all carry risk.  

Canada's new guidance on the health risks of alcohol consumption presented in a chart.

(Source:  Canada’s Guidance on Alcohol and Health, Public Summary: Drinking Less Is Better (Infographic))

Tip 2: Drink smarter.

An illustration comparing "a drink" between different types of alcohol.

(Source: Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines)

You can reduce the impacts of alcohol by:

  1. Starting low and going slow; keeping track of the number of drinks you have, and remembering  the ‘proof’ or percent of alcohol is different in each brand or type of beverage. A tall boy (473ml) with a 6% alcohol strength is equal to 1.66 drinks (try the calculator if you are not sure).
  2. Having one non-alcoholic drink (ideally water) for every alcoholic drink. Taking care to stay hydrated!
  3. Eating before and while you are drinking.
  4. Avoiding mixing alcohol with other drugs such as cannabis or even caffeine. Using drugs and alcohol together can lead to more harmful and unpredictable consequences than using either substance alone.
  5. Trying non-alcoholic drinks or mocktails.

Tip 3: Know the impacts of alcohol consumption.

Alcohol is a carcinogen. Drinking alcohol can increase your chance of developing health problems including cancer, heart disease and stroke. The more you drink, the higher your risk. As your blood alcohol level increases, your judgement becomes more impaired, meaning you are at higher risk for injuries or emotional and physical violence.

Tip 4: Plan for a safe way home.

It is always dangerous to drive after using any amount of alcohol or cannabis, so make sure you have a plan to get home safely. In Ontario, there is zero tolerance for cannabis use when driving. With alcohol, you can face criminal charges for a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher. Impaired driving can result in severe injuries to others, yourself, and fines, among other consequences.

Tip 5: Spot the signs of alcohol poisoning.

Even if you stop drinking once you begin to feel the effects of alcohol, the amount of alcohol in your blood will continue to increase as your body processes it. Keep an eye out for signs of alcohol poisoning:

  • Difficulty remaining conscious, or is unconscious and cannot be woken
  • Cold, clammy, pale or blueish skin, slow heart rate
  • Slow or irregular breathing patterns

 If you suspect someone is experiencing alcohol poisoning, dial 911 for immediate support. Get consent if you can. Do not leave the person alone. To avoid choking, assist them into the recovery position.

A diagram demonstrating how to place someone in the recovery position.

(Source: McMaster University Textbook of Internal Medicine)

Celebrations like St. Patrick’s Day are important moments with friends and families that often come with consumption of alcohol. These simple tips can help you have a safer, healthier and happier one.