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Top 7 tips for safe drinking

5-minute read

Drinking too much alcohol can lead to:

  • embarrassment
  • injury
  • accidents
  • health problems

Even drinking small amounts of alcohol increases your cancer risk.

No amount of alcohol can be considered safe. However, practicing ‘safe drinking’ can reduce your risk of harm. Follow this advice to drink safely.

1. Understand both how much alcohol you are having and how much you should have

Drinking can be part of a healthy lifestyle if you learn as much as you can about the effects of alcohol on the body. To reduce the lifetime risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury, you should follow The Australian Guidelines.

The Australian Guidelines recommend healthy adults should drink a maximum of 10 standard drinks a week, and no more than 4 standard drinks on any one day.

A standard drink contains about 10 grams of ethanol (alcohol), which is the amount your body can process in one hour. How much alcohol you can handle depends on your age, weight, sex and how you feel at the time.

Drinking more than the recommended amount can increase your risk of accidents, injuries and hangover. Regularly drinking too much also increases your risk of developing ongoing health problems. These can include:

Learn more about how alcohol affects your health here.

2. Eat before (and during) drinking sessions

Alcohol enters your bloodstream through your stomach and small intestine. If your stomach is empty when you start drinking, the alcohol will enter your bloodstream faster. You may feel the effects of your drinks quickly, making it harder to manage your drinking.

It’s a good idea to eat before your first drink, and while you are drinking. Also try these tips.

  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Don't mix alcohol with sugary or energy drinks.
  • Avoid salty snacks while drinking. They can make you thirsty and more likely to drink more.

3. Count your drinks

It's easy to drink more than you realise. A standard drink is a can or bottle of mid-strength beer, 100ml of wine or a 30ml shot of spirits. Drinks served in bars or restaurants often contain more than one standard drink.

Set yourself a drinks limit and stick to it. Avoid drinking in rounds (especially with friends who drink too much). Try to finish your drink before you start another, rather than topping up your glass.

Use this standard drink calculator from Your Room to work out how much you are drinking

4. Slow your intake with alcohol-free drinks

The amount of alcohol in your blood (blood alcohol concentration, or BAC) influences how alcohol affects you. The higher your BAC, the more at risk you are of injury or overdose.

The faster you drink, the higher your BAC, as your body can only process one standard drink per hour.

Find out more about standard drinks here.

To keep safe, slow your drinking down to one drink per hour. You can do this by:

  • drinking non-alcoholic drinks as well as alcoholic drinks
  • drinking water to quench your thirst before you start drinking alcohol
  • opting for low-alcohol drinks
  • sipping rather than gulping your drink
  • putting your glass down when not drinking

5. Skip the drinking games and shots

When you binge drink (drink more than 4 drinks in one session) and get drunk, you're more likely to:

  • get hurt
  • put yourself in a dangerous situation
  • embarrass yourself
  • suffer alcohol poisoning

Try to avoid drinking games, shots, sculling races or anything that aims to get you intoxicated fast. Don’t try to keep up with your friends. Play pool, dance or socialise instead.

Don't mix alcohol with energy drinks, as this can make you drink more. It can also increase risk-taking behaviour and the chance of injury.

6. Don't drink and drive

There is no safe level of alcohol if you are driving. The more drinks you have, the more likely you are to have a road accident. Road accidents can involve other people, not just you.

It's against the law in Australia to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above 0.05. Learner (L) and probationary (P) drivers must have a BAC of 0.00 (zero).

Plan how you're going to get home before you go out. This may include:

  • Deciding with your friends who will be the 'designated driver'.
  • Making sure you have enough money for an uber/taxi home.
  • Using public transport.

7. 'Just say no' if you're...

  • very young (under 18 years old)
  • pregnant
  • planning a pregnancy
  • breastfeeding
  • feeling depressed or anxious
  • feeling unsafe
  • don’t want to drink
  • taking other medicines that might interact with alcohol (speak to your doctor about this)

Drinking alcohol can be more harmful for some people. The safest option for children and young people under 18 is not to drink any alcohol at all.

During pregnancy, and while breastfeeding, no level of drinking is considered safe for the baby.

It's also best to avoid alcohol if you're taking any medicines or recreational drugs. When these mix with alcohol, they can have an unpleasant effect and increase the risk of health issues. Ask your doctor if alcohol is safe to use with your medicines.

It’s not a good idea to drink when you're feeling depressed because alcohol can make you feel worse.

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

Last reviewed: June 2022

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