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Managing your alcohol intake

4-minute read

Knowing how to drink safely and responsibly is good for your health, your relationships and your bank balance. Luckily, there are many ways you can manage your alcohol consumption.

How much am I really drinking?

It can be hard to keep track of how much alcohol you’re putting away. Alcoholic drinks come in different strengths and serving sizes. 

Your age, weight, gender and even how you’re feeling at the time can also influence how alcohol affects you. 

The Australian Guidelines recommend healthy adults should drink no more than 2 standard drinks on any day to cut the lifetime risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury.

They also recommend consuming a max of 4 standard drinks on a single occasion to reduce the risk of alcohol-related injury.

What’s a standard drink anyway?

A standard drink contains about 10 grams of alcohol - the amount your body can process in an hour.

But a standard drink is much smaller than you may think. For example, the average glass of wine served in a pub contains 1.5 standard drinks.

Check the label of any bottle, can or cask of alcohol for the number of standard drinks it contains.

Standard drink
Standard drink guide (developed by Department of Health). Click here for an extended version.

You can also use these handy calculators to work out how much you are drinking:

How to know if you're drinking too much

Drinking alcohol is so normalised in Australia that it can be difficult to know when you’re overdoing it. Some people find it hard to go a day without drinking, or to limit the number of drinks they have at any one time. Low-level dependence like this can gradually increase over time until alcohol becomes a real problem.

Signs that you may have a problem with your drinking:

  • you are drinking more than is recommended in the Australian Guidelines
  • you or others are worried about how much you drink
  • you need to drink more to feel the same effects
  • you crave alcohol
  • alcohol is affecting your physical or mental health
  • you don't feel in control of your drinking - you can't cut down or stop even if you want to
  • your drinking is interfering with your relationships or job
  • you experience physical symptoms such as shaking, sweating, anxiety or vomiting when you don't have a drink.

Audit: How risky is your drinking? is a confidential online tool developed by The Right Mix that will help you figure out if you’re drinking too much.

Cutting your alcohol intake offers serious benefits

Reducing the amount you drink can improve your life – in many areas.

Health and wellbeing: Cutting alcohol consumption means you are less likely to feel anxious or depressed, and you're at less risk of developing long-term health problems such as cancer, heart disease or liver cirrhosis (scarring).

You might even lose weight, have more energy and look better.

Are you at risk?

Find out if you're at risk of heart disease, kidney disease or diabetes in just a few minutes using the healthdirect Risk Checker.

Relationships: Drinking too much can affect your relationships by making you more likely to argue, reducing your sex drive, alienating your friends, and setting a bad example to your kids. Managing your alcohol intake may reduce any friction or embarrassment and improve your social life.

Finances: Drinking excessively gets expensive and can lead to problems at work. Cutting down will help you perform better at work, while reducing the risk of an accident that could stop you from earning a crust.


Tips for cutting down

  • set yourself a drinks limit and stick to it
  • count your drinks - remember, a drink in a bar or restaurant might contain more than one standard drink
  • drink water before you start drinking alcohol to quench your thirst
  • drink slowly
  • eat before and while you're drinking
  • finish your drink before you start another - try not to top up drinks as you might lose track of how many you’ve had
  • opt for a non-alcoholic drink in between alcoholic drinks
  • be active while you are drinking - play pool or dance rather than sit
  • find more tips on The Right Mix website.

Where to go for help

If you or someone you know needs support or help with their drinking, you can contact:

  • your doctor
  • your local community health service
  • the Drinkwise Australia website
  • the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) Australia website, or call 1300 222 222
  • AA Australian Capital Territory 02 6207 9977
  • AA New South Wales Sydney 02 9361 8000 (country areas 1800 422 599)
  • AA Northern Territory 08 8922 8399 (country areas 1800 131 350)
  • AA Central Australia 08 8951 7580
  • AA Queensland 1800 177 833
  • AA South Australia 1300 131 340
  • AA Tasmania 1800 811 994
  • AA Victoria 1800 888 236
  • AA Western Australia 08 9442 5000 (country areas 1800 198 024)
  • an alcohol or other drug helpline in your state or territory.

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

Last reviewed: December 2017

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