Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility Where to start – Help With Drinking

Need immediate support?
Please call 8-1-1 for 24/7 general health information and advice. Indigenous people across Canada can also call the toll-free Hope for Wellness Helpline at 1-855-242-3310.

Where to start

Whether you want to reduce your drinking or quit drinking alcohol completely, there are people who care and want to help. Browse this section for information and suggested resources to help you start your journey to recovery, no matter what your goals are.

Finding a health care provider

When you have a health problem of any kind, you’ll usually go to a clinic to get checked out. Some people have a family doctor or nurse practitioner that they go to on a regular basis, while others don’t. If you don’t have one, you can visit a walk-in clinic in your area or a virtual clinic to get help. 

Any of these health care providers can do a screening to help you figure out if your drinking is putting you at high risk of health impacts, dependency or both. They can diagnose whether you have a dependency or problem with drinking, which is also called “alcohol use disorder”. And if you have alcohol use disorder, the doctor or nurse practitioner can either give you treatment and support you both agree on, or refer you to someone else who can.


Keep in mind that the care provider you see first might not always be best suited to treat you long term. Some doctors and nurse practitioners may not have a lot of experience working with people who have alcohol use disorder. In those cases, they may refer you to a family doctor or a specialist who has more experience helping those who are struggling with their alcohol use.


If you are feeling disrespected or uncomfortable with the care provider you’ve connected with, you may want to seek care from an alternate provider. If you live in a rural or remote area where there aren’t many health care providers to choose from, accessing virtual care—where you meet with a health care provider online instead of in person—may be an option. If you don’t have the technology to do virtual appointments, you may want to bring a trusted friend or a family member to support you during your in-person appointments.

Other health care providers


If you’re already seeing a social worker, counsellor or psychiatrist, you can talk to them about what you need for your care. They can help you with any concerns you have about your alcohol use.


8-1-1 phone line


Across Canada, 8-1-1 is a phone line you can use to get provincial health information and advice free of charge. When you call 8-1-1, you can speak to someone who will help you find health information and services. They can also connect you directly with a registered nurse, pharmacist and some other specialists. Any one of these health care professionals will help you get the information you need to manage your health concerns or those of your family.




If you are a heavy drinker and want help to stop safely, or if you are experiencing symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, you should go to your nearest hospital. When you go to the emergency room, the doctors might ask you questions about your drinking habits. They do this to understand your health better and provide the right care. A doctor might diagnose you with an alcohol use disorder at this time.

It’s important to remember that hospital emergency departments are for emergencies only and not the place to go if you are looking for screening or referrals. However, if you are already in the hospital for something else, you can ask for help with referrals and support in your community for people struggling with alcohol use.


“There is some light on the horizon. The fact is there are many, many people working very hard to bring this issue to light and make sure that everyone with [alcohol use disorder] gets access to the timely compassionate care they so deserve.”

– Kay, parent of an adult with alcohol use disorder

Finding community support


It can be hard to find the help you need to cut down or quit drinking if you live in a rural or remote area. There are more community drop-in centres and support groups in larger cities, but you can still access support online, over the phone and face-to-face in rural areas. 


The Government of Canada website has a list of resources available to anyone anywhere in Canada. Some of these organizations may be able to connect you with referrals to services and support near you. 


If you have a family doctor, they may also be able to recommend peer-support groups and other resources in your community.

Community drop-in centres

In many big cities, there are community centres that offer help to people who are struggling with unstable housing or poverty—but anyone can go there for support. These centres usually don’t have doctors, but they can guide you to the right services in your area. If you don’t have a family doctor, they might be able to help you find one or connect you with someone who can help you. Some drop-in centres may even provide services to help reduce the harm caused by drugs and alcohol.


If you’re in a rural or remote area with no community drop-in centres nearby, consider reaching out to your church, temple, or other community gathering spaces or cultural centres. If they don’t run a support group that fits your needs, they might be able to help you find one or connect you with someone who can help you.

Alcoholics Anonymous

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a group where people who struggle with their alcohol use come together to support each other. They follow a 12-step program that focuses on spirituality. The goal of AA is to help people stop drinking and overcome alcohol addiction. Visit the AA website for information, including how to find AA meetings in your area or access help virtually.

SMART Recovery

SMART Recovery is a peer support group that helps people create their own recovery and wellness plan. They focus on providing practical tools and strategies to support individuals in their journey towards recovery, and they don’t use religious or spiritual guidance. Visit the SMART Recovery website to find meetings in your area (Canada and U.S. only).

Drug Rehab Services (DRS)

Call 1-877-254-3348 or visit the DRS website to get free, confidential support and resources for alcohol use rehabilitation. DRS is not a treatment centre, but they can provide referrals for people looking for rehab centres in Canada.

Wellness Together Canada

Call 1-866-585-0445 or text WELLNESS to 741741 (for adults) or 686868 (for youth) to access immediate, free and confidential mental health and substance use support. They also have a dedicated phone line for Indigenous people: 1-855-242-3310.


Visit their website for educational material about substance use and mental health.

If you decide to get help for a drinking problem, the path you take will probably not be a straight line from getting diagnosed to getting well, and it might not look like anyone else’s path either. Where you start your journey and what kind of help you get along the way will often depend on where you live, who you are, what resources you have to begin with and what kind of support you have from others. 


Click to learn more about what you can generally expect if you seek care for a drinking problem.

what to expect when getting care

Almost three years later, not drinking feels normal. Deep inside myself, I knew I didn’t want to die. Something in me finally rose up and said, no, I am not going to give up.

Heather, person in recovery from alcohol use disorder