Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Binge drinking

5-minute read

What is binge drinking?

Binge drinking is when you drink a lot of alcohol in one session with the aim of getting drunk.

To reduce the risk of harm from alcohol, adults should drink:

  • no more than 4 standard drinks in one session
  • no more than 10 standard drinks per week

Find out more about standard drinks here.

According to the Australian Guidelines, drinking more than this can be very risky to health and wellbeing.

Why do people binge drink?

There are lots of reasons why people binge drink. They might feel pressure from their friends, or they might drink to avoid feeling awkward or uncomfortable at social events. Some people use alcohol to try and cope with depression or stressful life events. They might not know how much they are really drinking.

In Australia, alcohol is very accepted and normalised. Because of this, many people do not realise its short- and long-term negative effects. At least 1 in 3 Australian adults drinks enough alcohol to put them at risk of disease or injury.

What are the harms of binge drinking?

Lots of problems are linked to binge drinking and not all of them are obvious or happen straight away.

In the short term, someone who binge drinks might:

  • feel sick
  • vomit
  • feel shaky
  • have a hangover

They could also injure themselves or someone else. For example, they could get into a fight, a car accident, or fall over.

People might also behave differently when they are drunk. They may do things they would not normally do, such as:

  • have unprotected sex and risk a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or pregnancy
  • embarrass themselves
  • damage their reputation, which can affect work or family
  • lose valuable items, such as a wallet, purse or mobile phone

Long-term effects of binge drinking include:

  • problems at school, at work and with relationships
  • risk of emotional and mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety
  • physical and psychological dependence on alcohol
  • health effects, such as damage to the brain and liver and increased risk of cancer

ARE YOU AT RISK? — Are you at risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease or kidney disease? Use the Risk Checker to find out.

Binge drinking and pregnancy

It is safest to not drink any alcohol while pregnant or breastfeeding. This is because alcohol crosses from the mother’s blood to her unborn baby’s blood. The risks to the unborn baby increase the more the mother drinks, so binge drinking is especially harmful.

Alcohol also crosses into breast milk, so a nursing baby is affected when the mother drinks.

Some babies develop fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) due to heavy drinking during pregnancy.

Resources and support

If you or someone you know needs support or treatment because of their alcohol intake, you can contact:

  • your doctor
  • the local community health service
  • Alcoholics Anonymous Australia at or call 1300 222 222
  • an alcohol or other drug helpline in your state/territory:
    • Australian Capital Territory: (02) 5124 9977
    • New South Wales: 1800 250 015
    • Northern Territory: 1800 250 015
    • Queensland: 1800 177 833
    • South Australia: 1300 13 1340
    • Tasmania: 1800 250 015
    • Victoria: 1800 888 236
    • Western Australia: (08) 9442 5000 (Perth), 1800 198 024 (WA country)
  • headspace at

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: June 2022

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

What binge drinking does to the body | Alcohol and drugs | ReachOut Australia

Find out what binge drinking is and its consequences on your health. Visit us to read more about short-term and long-term effects of Binge drinking.

Read more on website

Effects of Alcohol, Binge Drinking & Withdrawal Symptoms | Your Room

Alcohol is a legal drug which has many short and long term side effects. Read about the effects of binge drinking, alcohol withdrawal symptoms and more.

Read more on NSW Health website

Choices for Life: Sophie's Story

This video explores the consequences of binge drinking at a teenage party.

Read more on Positive Choices website

Middle-aged Australian women drinking more than they have in decades | The George Institute for Global Health

New study shows one in five middle-aged women are drinking at ‘binge drinking’ levels, a significant increase since 2001.

Read more on The George Institute for Global Health website

Alcohol and farmers | National Centre for Farmer Health

Alcohol is widely used in social interactions but it can cause many health, social, and safety problems when not used responsibly. People in farming communities are more likely to binge drink (consume alcohol at short-term risky levels) when compared with the general Australian population. Read more...

Read more on National Centre for Farmer Health website

The sobering truth about the ‘silly season’ - Alcohol and Drug Foundation

Different health departments and hospitals across the country have said December is typically a really busy time for them and alcohol contributes to this.

Read more on Alcohol and Drug Foundation website

When drinking becomes a problem | MensLine Australia

Is your drinking becoming a problem? Alcohol abuse is a serious public health problem & can affect relationships, mental wellbeing & even physical health.

Read more on MensLine Australia website

Alcohol and mental health | MensLine Australia

What are the effects of alcohol on mental health | Tips & advice for alcohol abuse & dealing with drinking coping mechanisms.

Read more on MensLine Australia website

Your Relationship with Alcohol | Hello Sunday Morning

Your Relationship with Alcohol  What elements define a relationship with alcohol, healthy or otherwise? What’s a Healthy Relationship with Alcohol? A healthy relationship with alcohol can be different for everyone, and depends on how you feel about your own drinking

Read more on Hello Sunday Morning website

Parenting Strategies: Preventing Adolescent Alcohol Misuse

These guidelines and interactive parenting program help parents prevent or reduce their adolescent’s alcohol use.

Read more on Positive Choices website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Queensland Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.