WINDSOR, ONT. -- Windsor-Essex County Health Unit officials say they are concerned with the “alarming shift” in the increase in alcohol sales provincially.

Windsor-Essex medical officer of health Dr. Wajid Ahmed says COVID-19 has become everyone’s focus, but it is important to not lose sight of everything else as the fight continues against the virus.

“It is hard to maintain calm during this stressful time, but it is essential that we find balance. Alcohol already takes too large of a toll on the health of our community,” says Ahmed.

The health unit says alcohol already accounts for the largest number of local emergency department visits compared to any other substance, and it contributes to a large burden of chronic disease, including heart disease, liver disease, and many forms of cancer.

“It is important that people drink in moderation and rely on healthy forms of stress relief, such as physical activity, sleep, and healthy eating,” says Ahmed.

Health officials warn drinking, even a little bit, poses risks to mental and physical health. The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Alcohol (CCSA) Low Risk Drinking Guidelines provide recommendations for those who choose to drink, in order to lower these risks.

The guidelines recommend no more than 10 drinks a week for women (with no more than two drinks per day most days) and no more than 15 drinks in a week for men (with no more than three drinks a day most days) in order to reduce the long-term risks associated with drinking.

Health officials say there are groups that should never consume alcohol, such as pregnant women, those who are taking medicines that interact with alcohol, those responsible for the safety of others, those with mental health concerns, or those who are living with alcohol dependence.