Alcohol is the most common type of drug consumed in Australia, but so many people still don’t recognise the harm it can cause. As a result, they may drink too heavily at times, or binge drink.
The definition of binge drinking is simply drinking with the intention of getting drunk.
Is your binge drinking harming yourself or others?
Ever had a hang over, nausea, the shakes, possibly vomited or couldn’t remember what you did after a big night? These are some of the short term harms binge drinking can have on you. Although the symptoms may be short lived, they can have long term implications such as loss of income from time off work.
Alcohol can impair your judgement and change the way you would normally behave. The outcome could be accidents, assaults, unplanned pregnancy, shame and embarrassment or financial loss through reckless spending while intoxicated.
Long-term harms from excessive drinking can include becoming physically or psychologically dependent on alcohol, cancer and developing liver or brain damage to name a few.
Among 16–24 year olds, alcohol-related harm is one of the leading causes of disease and injury, according to the 2007 National Drug Strategy Household Survey.
The survey also showed that more people in the 20–29 year age group drink at risky levels than any other group with over 45% of males drinking at least monthly, at levels that increased their risk of alcohol-related harm in the short-term.
How can I reduce my risk of harm from alcohol?
While there is no safe level of drinking, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommend the following guidelines:
- For healthy men and women to reduce the risk of an alcohol-related injury or disease during their lifetime, they should drink no more than two standard drinks on any day.
- For healthy men and women to reduce the risk of an immediate alcohol-related injury or harms, they should drink no more than four standard drinks on any one occasion.
- For children and young people under 18 years of age, not drinking is the safest option.
- Parents and carers are advised that children under the age of 15 are at greatest risk of harm from drinking and it is especially important that they do not drink alcohol.
- If young people aged 15–17 years choose to drink they should be in a safe environment, supervised by adults and stay within the low risk guidelines.
- For women who are pregnant, are planning a pregnancy, or are breastfeeding, not drinking is the safest option.
What is a ‘standard’ drink?
Often, we don’t realise just how much we have consumed as different types of alcoholic drinks contain different amounts of alcohol. A standard drink is not always “standard”.
Don’t get caught out. Most venues don’t serve alcohol in standard drink sizes. Beware of bigger glasses, bottle or cans which hold more than one standard drink. If you are not sure, read the label or ask the person serving you.
If you are driving, it’s even more important to know what you are drinking. One drink may put you over.
Here is a general guide. Each of these drinks equals approximately one standard drink.
- A little less than 285ml pot of full strength beer (4.8% alc./vol)
- 2/3 of a 375ml stubbie/can of full strength beer (4.8% alc./vol)
- A 375ml stubbie/can of mid strength beer (3.5% alc./vol)
- 1¼ of a 375ml stubbie/can of low strength beer (2.7% alc./vol)
- 100ml of wine or sparkling wine (12.0% alc./vol)
- A 30ml “shot” or “nip” of spirits (40.0% alc./vol)
- 2/3 of a 275ml bottle/can of ready-to-drink spirits/wine (7.0% alc./vol)
- 2/3 of a 375ml bottle/can of alcoholic cider (5.0% alc./vol)
Our top tips for staying safe:
- Set limits for yourself, and stick to them. Don’t let other people pressure you into drinking more than you want.
- Quench your thirst first. Have a non-alcoholic drink if you are thirsty.
- Be aware of exactly what you are drinking. Remember that “alcopops” (sweet flavoured ready-to-drink or pre-mixed spirits/wine) can be quite strong, even though they don’t taste like strong alcohol.
- Eat before and while drinking, but avoid salty snacks, which will make you thirsty.
- Avoid getting into a “round” or a “shout”. They are sure to make you drink faster, and drink more, so that you can keep up with your friends.