Comprehensive information about staying well, prevention and living a healthy life with chronic conditions

FAQs (frequently asked questions)

  1. QUESTION  What is a standard drink size?

ANSWER  In Canada, standard drink sizes are: 

  • a bottle of beer (12 oz., 341 ml, 5% alcohol)
  • a bottle of cider (12 oz., 341 ml, 5% alcohol)
  • a glass of wine (5 oz., 142 ml, 12% alcohol)
  • a shot glass of spirits (1.5 oz., 43 ml, 40% alcohol)

Copy of the image Standard Drink available at Health Canada

NOTE: Depending on the size, a can of beer may be as little as 0.3 of a standard drink, to as much as 4 standard drinks.

  1. QUESTION  Is there any amount of alcohol that can be consumed without risk?

ANSWER  Drinking alcohol always has some risk for your health. The more you drink, and the more often you drink, the more risk there is to your health. Drinking less is better.

Canada’s Guidance on Alcohol and Health, Public Summary: Drinking Less Is Better (Infographic)
Used with permission from the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction

  1. QUESTION  How does alcohol use in Nova Scotia compare to other provinces?

ANSWER  In comparing Nova Scotia to other provinces, survey results show that:

  • Nova Scotians start using alcohol at 12 years old, on average.
  • Nova Scotia has a culture of alcohol use. This means that Nova Scotians drink more alcohol, and more drinks on one occasion more heavily, than most Canadians.
  • High-risk drinking (greater than 7 drinks or more per week) among high school and university students in Nova Scotia is much higher than in other provinces.
  • In 2020, 18.6% of Nova Scotians 12 years old or older reported high-risk alcohol use.1
  • The older a person is when they have their first drink, the less chance there is that they will have problems with alcohol use later in life, such as experiencing alcohol related violence and injury, and substance use disorder

1. Canadian Community Health Survey.

  1. QUESTION  What are the costs (like health, legal, lost work time) of alcohol use in Nova Scotia?

ANSWER  In 2017, the cost reached $531.6 million (with $178.9 million in direct health care costs). This is more than the cost of tobacco use in 2016.

  1. QUESTION  How many cancer deaths does alcohol cause each year in Canada?

ANSWER  Alcohol causes cancer. It is a carcinogen. The Canadian Centre Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) states that alcohol is linked to at least nine types of cancer and nearly 7,000 annual cancer deaths in Canada.

Alcohol increases the risk for many different cancers including:

  • cancer of the mouth and throat
  • cancer of the esophagus and larynx
  • breast cancer
  • stomach cancer
  • liver cancer
  • pancreatic cancer
  • colon cancer

  1. QUESTION  How does the environment affect alcohol use?

ANSWER  Alcohol-related harms in Nova Scotia may be affected by factors in the social, cultural, economic, and physical environments. These factors may include:

  • Social: the social norms around drinking
  • Cultural: Loss of cultural identity, stigma, and discrimination related to racism, gender identity, and sexuality
  • Economic: Alcohol use goes up as income gets higher. Hospitalizations related to alcohol use go up as income gets lower.
  • Physical: Access to alcohol and the cost to buy it where you live

  1. QUESTION  What can I do?

ANSWER  If you do not already use alcohol, do not start drinking. Many people don't know about the risks of using alcohol. It is important to be open to learning about new health information. Consider which changes you would like to make in your life related to alcohol.

Abstinence (not drinking alcohol at all) does not work for everyone. You may wish to try reduce the harms alcohol causes and drink less.

You may feel pressure from friends and other people to drink. It is often easier to join in and drink than not to drink. This behaviour can be hard to change, but support is available to you:

  • Services to support you with making health changes (such as health goal coaching)
  • Services for people who think they may be living with a substance use disorder

Look at the following list of services to find ways to help you reduce or stop drinking.

Change Your Relationship with Alcohol

If you drink alcohol and want to change that behaviour, try the following:

  • Track your current alcohol use.
    • Becoming aware of your current alcohol use is a great first step to reducing what you drink. Notice how alcohol affects your stress levels, mood, sleep, and blood pressure.
    • Check out the Mental Health and Addictions Tools recommended by Nova Scotia Health. Choose from a list of apps and websites.
  • Learn more about Canada's Guidance on Alcohol and Health to educate yourself about the most recent health information about alcohol and the harm it causes.
  • Ask yourself, "am I ready to change?" Think about what, if anything, you are ready to change, such as:
    • Decrease the number of drinks you have
    • Have non-drinking days
    • Replace some of your alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic drinks.
    • Drink water between each alcoholic drink.
    • Register for a Nova Scotia Health Health and Wellness Program to improve one aspect of your health. For example:
      • If you are using alcohol to cope with stress, you could try the class called Take Charge of Your Stress to learn healthy ways to manage your stress.
  • Set goals: Set yourself a realistic goal to change your alcohol use.

Health Care services to support you in making changes to your behaviour

I need more help

If you need help with a mental health or addiction concern, contact Mental Health and Addictions Intake at this toll-free phone number: 1-855-922-1122.