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. It can affect your physical and mental health, your job, your finances, your family and your community.
Excessive use of alcohol might include:
- regularly drinking more than the recommended amount
- drinking too much in one sitting (binge drinking, where you have a lot to drink over a short period of time on one occasion)
- drinking too much on a regular basis to the point that you feel you cannot stop drinking
The Australian guidelines recommend we do not drink any more than four standard drinks on any one day, and no more than 10 drinks per week. The more alcohol a person drinks the greater their risk of developing an alcohol-related injury or disease during their lifetime.
See: Drink responsibly
Problems associated with risky drinking
Risky drinking increases your chances of being injured or killed. Regular and heavy drinking can lead to serious health conditions such as heart disease, cancer, liver disease and dementia.
Heavy drinking is also associated with a range of mental health conditions because people often drink in an attempt to manage the symptoms of posttraumatic stress (also known as PTSD), depression or anxiety. This might seem like a good idea, but in the long term it makes those conditions worse and can make treatments less effective.
Risky drinking can also create problems in your important relationships and increases your chances of developing an alcohol-use disorder.
Issues for families
Drinking doesn't just affect the person who’s drinking. Drinking affects partners, children and other family members as well.
It’s hard to force people to change when they don’t want to. There’s no ‘perfect’ way to talk to a loved one about their drinking, but here are a few tips that might help you:
- Try not to argue with your loved about their drinking – it may make them more determined not to change.
- Instead of criticising behaviour that’s unhelpful or unhealthy, support or encourage behaviours that are helpful or healthy.
- Feel free to express your opinion, but be prepared to listen when others express theirs.
Issues for older veterans
Alcohol is a leading cause of death and hospitalisation for older Australians, and is one of the most common health problems among older veterans. Every year, hundreds of older people die from alcohol-related causes, and thousands are hospitalised due to alcohol.
Help and treatment
There are a number of support options available:
- Group alcohol and other drugs (AoD) treatment programs. DVA funds a number of residential and outpatient group treatment programs for veterans with alcohol and other drug problems. For more information, contact Open Arms or visit the DVA website.
- Counselling is an effective treatment in helping you change your drinking habits, specifically in the areas of:
- Motivational interviewing helps you get organised, make decisions and set goals.
- Cognitive behavioural therapy teaches you skills when you’re really craving a drink, recognise situations where you’re more likely to drink, and strategies to avoid drinking.
- Relapse prevention provides skills and strategies to avoid falling back into old habits.
For free and confidential counselling, call us on 1800 011 046. Support is available 24/7 for veterans and their family. In immediate danger, call 000.
- Your GP is always a good place to start when trying to overcome a drinking problem. If you’ve been drinking heavily and are thinking about cutting back or stopping, it’s important to see a doctor who can check to see if you’re alcohol dependent. People who are alcohol dependent can experience a range of symptoms if they just stop drinking, including some that can be dangerous, such as seizures.
Your GP can prescribe medications to help you manage these symptoms and manage intense cravings for alcohol that you might get once you’ve cut down. A GP can make referrals to psychologists and other specialists, and support your efforts with medications if necessary.
You don’t necessarily have to give up drinking, although it does depend upon the extent to which alcohol is a part of your life. Think about whether you control it, or it controls you?
One option is to set some goals:
- Do you want to reduce your drinking to less harmful levels?
- Do you want to stop drinking completely?
- Or are you just not sure at this stage?
Download the Right Mix app
The ON TRACK with The Right Mix app can help you manage your alcohol consumption by tracking how much you're drinking and spending in real time.
For many Australians, alcohol is a part of social and cultural activities. Responsible drinking is about moderating and managing your alcohol consumption in healthy ways.
If your 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.