Alcohol and your health
Many Australians have a beer or glass of wine to relax after work or on the weekend, but some of us are drinking too much and it can be harmful for our health. In fact, according to Hello Sunday Morning Organisation, 4 out of 5 Australians believe they have a problematic relationship with alcohol.
How much should we be drinking?
To reduce your risk of alcohol related disease or injury, you should follow the below guidelines set by the National Health and Medical Research Council:
- drink no more than 10 standard drinks in a week
- drink no more than four standard drinks on any one day
- aim for two alcohol free days in a week
Children and young people
If you’re under 18 years, and especially if you’re under 15, the safest option is to not drink at all. Before the age of 15, children’s brains, hearts and livers are still developing and so they can’t process alcohol as quickly as adults.
What is a standard drink?
The best way to keep track of how much you’re drinking is to track your standard drinks. A standard drink is equal to 10g of alcohol, but many drinks contain more than one standard drink.
The Department of Health Standard Drinks Guide outlines how many standard drinks are in different serves of alcohol:
- 1.4 standard drinks in an average restaurant serve of white wine (150ml)
- 6.8 standard drinks in an average bottle of white wine (750ml)
- 1.6 standard drinks in an average restaurant serve of red wine (150ml)
- 8 standard drinks in an average bottle of red wine (750ml)
- 1.4 standard drinks in an average restaurant serve of champagne (150ml)
- 7.1 standard drinks in an average bottle of champagne (750ml)
Beer and Cider
- 1.1 standard drinks in an average middy of full-strength beer (285ml)
- 1.6 standard drinks in an average schooner of full-strength beer (425ml)
- 1 standard drink in a nip of spirits (30ml)
- 22 standard drinks in an average bottle of spirit (700ml)
Effects of alcohol on your body
When we have a drink, our brains produce dopamine which makes us feel great and GABA which relaxes us. Knowing this, it’s easy to understand why so many of us drink to relax and why we turn to it if we’re feeling down. While these might seem like positive effects, drinking too much can result in some the following negative effects:
- decrease in sex drive and fertility
- lack of coordination
- slurred speech
- heart damage
- liver damage
- stomach ulcers
- impaired mental health
For more information, read the effects of alcohol on your body at the Department of Health.
How do you know if you have a drinking problem?
It’s not always easy to tell if you or someone close to you has a drinking problem. Generally, if someone continually turns to alcohol to cope with problems in their life or with difficult emotions, they may have a problem.
It’s a good idea to be on the lookout for the following warning signs of alcohol addiction:
- needing alcohol to function in everyday life
- needing more and more alcohol to get drunk
- drinking while alone
- lying about how much you’re drinking
- forgetting what you said or did while drunk
- wanting a drink first thing in the morning
- nausea, sweating, shaking or anxiety if you stop drinking
How to reduce the harms from alcohol
It might be helpful to try some of the following tips to reduce some of the negative impacts of drinking:
- eat food before and while drinking to slow the absorption of alcohol
- avoid mixing alcohol with prescription or recreational drugs
- drink water or other non-alcoholic drinks between alcoholic drinks
- order smaller serves of drinks
- don’t allow others to top up your glass or drink in rounds as you may end up drinking more than you realise
Health benefits of reducing or quitting drinking
If you reduce your alcohol intake or stop drinking altogether, you might notice the following improvements to your health:
- more positive moods
- increase in the quality of your sleep
- increase in energy levels
- better relationships
- increase in your work performance
- decrease in gut symptoms
How to reduce or quit drinking
Seeing your doctor
If you’re thinking about reducing or quitting alcohol, it’s a good idea to see your doctor. They can help manage any withdrawal symptoms you may experience and work out a withdrawal plan. For more information, you can read how to reduce or quit alcohol at the Department of Health.
Hello Sunday Morning
You can also learn more about how to stop drinking at Hello Sunday Morning. Hello Sunday Morning is an online movement for alcohol behaviour change. You can try their Daybreak App which is an online program that helps you change your relationship with alcohol. You can access a support community and one-on-one health coaches. Daybreak is free in Australia.
Where to get more support
If you feel like you’re starting to develop a drinking problem, it’s important to know that there are support services and helplines available.
If you or someone close to you has a drinking problem, you may like to suggest contacting:
- Alcoholics Anonymous on 1300 222 222.
- Counselling Online on 1800 888 236
- Family Drug Helpline on 1300 660 068
For immediate help in a crisis:
For general mental health support:
- Alcohol at the Department of Health
- What is alcohol addiction? at Reachout Australia
- Hello Sunday Morning
All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified healthcare professional.
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