Drinking within guidelines can still be risky: study

- Amanda Farrell-Low

Adam Sherk, CISUR post-doctoral fellow. Photo: Jonathan Woods

Will following Canada’s low-risk drinking guidelines insulate you from harm? Maybe not, according to new research from UVic’s Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research (CISUR).

A new study in the Journal of Study on Alcohol and Drugs, led by CISUR post-doctoral fellow Adam Sherk, analyzed data around hospitalizations, deaths and alcohol consumption in British Columbia.  The research team found that over 50 per cent of alcohol-related cancers in the province occurred in people drinking within low-risk guidelines (Canada’s guidelines recommend no more than 10 drinks per week for women or 15 for men). People following the guidelines as well as former drinkers made up 38 per cent of alcohol-attributable deaths.

The study was powered by the International Model of Alcohol Harms and Policies (InterMAHP), an open-access tool that Sherk created as part of his PhD thesis in UVic’s Social Dimensions of Health program. InterMAHP has been used in places like Scotland, Australia, Finland and other places around the world to estimate alcohol-related harms and the impacts of alcohol policy changes, such as what might happen if a government decides to introduce a minimum price for alcohol or decides to allow grocery stores to sell booze.

In terms of this study’s policy impacts, Sherk suggests that guideline limits should be lowered to match those in the Netherlands: “Don’t drink or, if you do, drink no more than one drink per day.”

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Keywords: alcohol, addiction, health, graduate research, CISUR

People: Adam Sherk

Publication: The Ring


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