Oct 16, 2023

By Jane Brown

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New Canadian guidelines have been issued to help doctors broach the topic of risky drinking with patients and connect them to effective treatment.

The guidelines are published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal and are the first of their kind in Canada at a time when high risk drinking is relatively common while medical intervention is rare.

Doctor Jurgen Rehm is co-chair of the guideline committee and senior scientist at the Institute for Mental Health Policy Research at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

He says when people with alcohol-use disorder get help, they are often prescribed anti-depressant medications known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or some anti-psychotic drugs to alleviate systems.

But he says mounting evidence shows those drugs don’t actually help, and in the case of SSRIs, can actually lead to worsening cravings. And so the new recommendations advise against the use of these drugs to treat alcohol related conditions. Another recommendation suggests doctors screen patients for alcohol-use disorder once a year.

According to the guidelines, nearly one in five people, 15 and older, will meet clinical criteria for an alcohol use disorder in their lifetime while nearly 60 percent drink more than advised under Canada’s alcohol consumption recommendations.

Health risks begin to escalate when a person consumes 3 to 6 alcoholic drinks a week and 7 or more drinks is linked to worse outcomes.

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