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Managing your alcohol intake

5-minute read

Knowing how to drink safely and responsibly is good for:

  • your health
  • your relationships
  • your bank balance

There are many ways you can manage your alcohol drinking.

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, sex and even how you’re feeling at the time can also influence how alcohol affects you.

By limiting your drinks you reduce the lifetime risk of harm from alcohol-related injury or disease. The Australian Guidelines recommend healthy adults should drink:

  • a maximum of 10 standard drinks a week to cut the lifetime risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury
  • a maximum 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. This is the amount your body can process in one hour.

A standard drinking may be much smaller than you 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. Find out more about standard drinks here.

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 very normal in Australia. This makes it difficult to know when you’re overdoing it.

Some people struggle to limit the amount they drink. Others find it hard to go even a day without drinking. Low-level dependence like this can gradually increase over time until alcohol becomes a serious 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.
  • You need to drink first thing in the morning to get yourself going.
  • 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 or others have been injured because of your drinking.
  • You experience physical symptoms such as shaking, sweating, anxiety or vomiting when you don't have a drink.

The Daybreak App, developed by Hello Sunday Morning, can support you to change your relationship with alcohol.

Cutting your alcohol intake offers serious benefits

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

Health and wellbeing

Cutting alcohol consumption means you are less likely to feel anxious or depressed. You’d also be 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. Excessive alcohol consumption can:

  • make you more likely to argue
  • reduce your sex drive
  • make you alienate your friends
  • set a bad example for your children

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 home and work. Cutting down on alcohol will help you perform better at work. It will also reduce the risk of an accident that could stop you from working.

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

How do I cut down on alcohol?

Here are some tips for managing your drinking on a single occasion.

  • Set yourself a drink 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 beforehand to quench your thirst.
  • Drink slowly.
  • Eat before and while you're drinking.
  • Finish your drink before you start another.
  • Put your drink down between sips.
  • Choose to drink non-alcoholic beverages in between alcoholic drinks.
  • Be active while you are drinking. Instead of sitting, play pool or dance.

To cut down your alcohol consumption for good, you can try the following.

  • Think about your triggers. When/where do you drink? By recognising situations where you are tempted to drink, you can work to avoid them.
  • Develop strategies for cutting down. Try socialising more often with friends who don’t drink. Organise alcohol-free catch-ups with friends, or suggest venues that serve mocktails.

You can find more information on The Right Mix website.

Resources and support

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: June 2022


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Standard drinks - MyDr.com.au

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