Which is better: regular moderate drinking or occasional excessive drinking?

Summertime…and the drinking is easy. The days are long, the weather is fine and everyone is outside – at sidewalk cafés, in the back yard, on the balcony, by the pool – enjoying sparkling cider, rosé wine, premixed drinks, cold beer and sangria. Some are sipping, others are chugging it down. It’s easy to have one, and then another. And another. Sometimes a few too many. “No harm done,” they say. “After all, it’s summer!”

That attitude is a lot more common than you might think. Even here.

In fact, the latest Éduc’alcool research reveals some surprising beliefs: too many Quebecers associate regular drinking – even very moderate drinking – with alcoholism, while at the same time they display a benevolent tolerance for excessive drinking, provided it is occasional. No kidding! A majority of people believe that staying within the low-risk drinking guidelines (2 drinks a day or 10 a week for women, and 3 a day or 15 a week for men) makes you an alcoholic. What’s more, far too many think that moderation means not drinking during the week.

In short, getting bombed is OK if you do it now and then or during the summer, but drinking every day is a sign of dependence. That’s not only ridiculous, it’s absolutely untrue.

It has been shown repeatedly that alcohol can be beneficial when people drink small amounts on a regular basis, while the worst approach is to down a large amount of alcohol one day, followed by a few days of abstinence. In other words, it really is much better to drink a little bit of alcohol regularly than it is to drink a lot occasionally.

Researchers call summer the “time out” season. It’s like when people take a week off down south during winter at an all-inclusive resort where alcohol is unlimited. Ordinary folks who normally are very reasonable drink themselves silly simply because they’re on vacation, they’re on a beach, the sun is out, and it’s hot. Here in Quebec, they do it because it’s summertime.

It’s not unusual to mark the transition from work to leisure or work to vacation with alcohol: take Happy Hour, for example. But there’s a big difference between one drink after work and drink after drink all day long just because it’s summer. It seems that the moment we break with our regular routine, we indulge in behaviours we wouldn’t otherwise consider. And sadly, society is much too tolerant of occasional excessive drinking.

Éduc’alcool would like to propose that we turn such thinking around and go for a real cultural shift by remembering that getting drunk even once is once too often. Winter, spring, summer or fall, moderation is always in good taste.

Hubert Sacy
Director General