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Binge drinking

5-minute read

What is binge drinking?

Binge drinking is when someone drinks a lot of alcohol in one session, or continuously over a number of days or weeks.

To reduce the risk of harm from alcohol, adults should drink no more than 4 standard drinks in one session or 10 standard drinks per week. Drinking more than this can be very risky to health and wellbeing.

At least 1 in 3 Australian adults drinks enough alcohol to put them at risk of disease or injury.

Why do people binge drink?

There could be lots of reasons why people binge drink. They might feel pressure from their friends, or they might drink to avoid feeling awkward or uncomfortable. They might not know how much they are really drinking.

In Australia, alcohol is so much an accepted part of 'having a good time' that many people do not realise it is capable of doing harm in a great many different ways.

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 or have a hangover. They could injure themselves or someone else, for example, if they get into a fight, fall over, or have a car accident.

People might also behave differently when they are drunk and 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 certain cancers

Are you at risk?

Find out if you're at risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes or kidney disease using our Risk Checker.

Binge drinking and pregnancy

For the sake of the baby, the safest choice is to abstain from drinking alcohol while pregnant or breastfeeding.

When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, so does her baby. 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 are born with foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) or develop attention and learning disorders because of their mother’s heavy drinking.

Resources and support

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

  • a doctor
  • the local community health service
  • Drinkwise Australia at www.drinkwise.org.au
  • Alcoholics Anonymous Australia at www.aa.org.au or call 1300 222 222
  • an alcohol or other drug helpline in your state/territory:
    • ACT: (02) 5124 9977
    • NSW: 1800 250 015
    • NT: 1800 250 015
    • Qld: 1800 177 833
    • SA: 1300 13 1340
    • Tas: 1800 250 015
    • Vic: 1800 888 236
    • WA: (08) 9442 5000 (Perth), 1800 198 024 (WA country)
  • eheadspace (for youth aged 12-25) at www.eheadspace.org.au

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

Last reviewed: June 2021


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