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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 10 standard drinks a week to cut the lifetime risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury.

They also recommend consuming a max of 4 standard drinks on any one day 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 one 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.

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.

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

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:

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

Last reviewed: February 2020

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