For many Australians, alcohol is a part of social and cultural activities. We may consume alcohol for many reasons, including to celebrate, socialise, or commiserate with others. Some people may feel that alcohol helps them deal with problems such as anxiety or difficulty sleeping.
Drinking can become a habit – a beer with mates, a bottle of wine with dinner, and a few stubbies at the BBQ. Sometimes, this habit can become something that is more difficult to shake. Drinking too much, too often, or for too long can cause problems with your health, concentration, work and relationships.
You or your friends and family might notice you’re drinking more and become worried. Alcohol, while legal, is still a drug and the health consequences of drinking alcohol are well known.
Responsible drinking is about moderating and managing your alcohol consumption in healthy ways.
The Australian Guidelines covering alcohol use are set by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).
The 2020 Guidelines recommend we do not drink any more than four standard drinks on any one day, and no more than 10 drinks per week.
A ‘standard’ drink
The image below shows typical drinks in terms of one standard drink. Cans and bottles also include details about the percentage of alcohol and the number of standard drinks on their packaging.
These amounts are often less than people think.
- Light beer = 425ml
- Mid-strength beer = 375ml
- Full-strength beer = 285ml
- Regular cider = 285ml
- Sparkling wine = 100ml
- Wine = 100ml
- Fortified wine = 60ml
- Spirits = 30ml
How much are you drinking?
It can be hard to keep track of how much you drink, particularly if you have a glass that keeps getting topped up.
Open Arms has a very useful app to track the amount you drink, called ON TRACK with The Right Mix.
Alcohol has different effects on different people, and there’s no hard and fast rule about when drinking becomes a problem. What we do know is the more you drink and the longer you’ve been drinking, the more likely it is your drinking will cause problems. For example, it might become hard for you to do your work, take care of things at home, spend time on hobbies, or get along with other people.
Is my drinking a problem?
Ask yourself the following questions and if you answer 'yes' to any of them, then you could have a problem:
- Am I regularly exceeding the number of drinks per night or week as set out in the NHMRC Guidelines?
- What would my partner/family/friends say to this question?
- Has my GP or another health professional said they’re concerned about my drinking?
- Do I ‘need’ to drink to socialise or get to sleep?
- Do I need to drink more and more to feel any effect from the alcohol?
- Do I drink to get drunk?
- Am I thinking a lot about alcohol?
- Does the alcohol control me, rather than me controlling my alcohol use?
- Is my drinking having a negative effect upon my work, family, or health?
- Do I find it hard to stop drinking, or go a day without alcohol?
Think about your responses to:
- What benefits do I think I am getting from drinking alcohol?
- How is my alcohol consumption impacting me and the people around me?
Listen to your friends and family: have they commented on how much you’re drinking? If so, your drinking might have become a problem, even if you don’t feel like it has.
Help and support
You might like to consider other enjoyable and rewarding activities you can do instead of drinking.
If you’ve tried self-help and are still having trouble changing your drinking habits, or if you’re worried you have a serious alcohol problem and you need additional support, other options include:
- A GP is a good place to start when trying to overcome alcohol problems. Your GP can also manage your general health issues and make referrals for specialists if necessary.
- National Drugs Campaign provides information on state-based alcohol and drug services.
- Alcohol and Drug Foundation provides information, resources and programs to prevent alcohol and other drug harm in Australian communities.
Call Open Arms
Counselling is an effective treatment in helping you change your drinking habits. Call Open Arms on 1800 011 046. Support is available 24/7 for veterans and their family.
If your alcohol or drug use is becoming a problem for you or those around you, there are strategies and tools you can use to get it under control.
Alcohol affects everyone. How it affects you depends on how much you drink, your health, your age and other factors. Drinking too much can lead to harmful short-term and long-term effects.