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Man vomiting on toilet bowl in the washroom to illustrate binge drinking

Man vomiting on toilet bowl in the washroom to illustrate binge drinking
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Binge drinking

3-minute read

Binge drinking is when you drink a lot of alcohol in one session, or continuously over a number of days or weeks. It is very risky to your health and wellbeing.

There could be lots of reasons why you might binge drink. You might feel peer pressure to get 'maggoted' or 'smashed'. You might feel awkward or uncomfortable at a party. You might not know how much you are really drinking.

The Australian guidelines recommend that adults should not drink more than 4 standard drinks over several hours. At least 1 in 4 Australians over the age of 14 drinks a risky amount of alcohol at least once a month.

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's so bad about binge drinking?

Lots of problems are linked to binge drinking and not all of them are obvious or short-lived. It doesn't matter how old you are, whether you are male of female or what size you are, binge drinking damages your health.

You might feel sick, vomit, feel shaky or have a hangover. You could injure yourself or someone else if you get into a fight, fall over or have a car accident.

Alcohol kills and injures many people each year.

You might also behave differently when you are drunk and do things you wouldn't normally do, such as:

  • have unprotected sex and risk a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or pregnancy
  • embarrass yourself
  • damage your reputation, which can affect your work or your family
  • lose valuable items, such as your 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

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 your nursing baby is affected when you drink.

Some babies are born with foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) or develop attention and learning disorders because of their mother’s heavy drinking. For the sake of your baby, the safest choice is to abstain from drinking alcohol while pregnant or breastfeeding.

More information

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

  • your doctor
  • your local community health service
  • Drinkwise Australia at www.drinkwise.org.au
  • Alcoholics Anonymous Australia at www.aa.org.au or call 1300 22 22 22
  • 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) on 1800 650 890, or go to www.eheadspace.org.au

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

Last reviewed: July 2019


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