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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
  • 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:
    • 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 www.headspace.org.au

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

Last reviewed: June 2022


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