How Many Drinks Is Too Much?

Many of us consider a few drinks of alcohol safe and even healthy. But do we even know how much is safe? Contrary to popular belief, alcohol is never healthy, and the threshold for harmful drinking is much lower than you probably anticipate. Of course, it’s never free of risk. However, the less alcohol you consume, the lower your risk is. 

Although many drink beer, wine and spirits without developing a bad drinking habit, drinking alcohol could still put your health at risk even without alcohol abuse.

A Guideline for Reducing Alcohol-Related Risks

The question remains: how much alcohol can you consider safe? How much alcohol do you need to be considered a high-risk drinker? Here are the current Australian guidelines to help you and your friends and family drink safely.

Safer Drinking for Adults

Suppose you want to reduce the harmful risks of alcohol-related disease or injury. In that case, your healthy self should limit drinking to 10 standard alcoholic drinks a week and four standard alcoholic drinks on any given day.

According to the National Health and Medical Research Council, a standard drink consists of 10 grams of pure alcohol. Unfortunately, many alcoholic beverages available on the market have more than one standard drink in them. So if you want to be sure, you can check the label on the packaging or check out our list below for more information. Remember though, the less alcohol you consume, the lower your risk of harm from alcohol.

Can Drinking Under 18 Years Old Be Safe? 

Is drinking underage ever okay? Although underage drinking is quite typical among Australian youth, it is highly risky. Not only is it harmful to their health, but there is also the threat of associated harms like binge drinking, drunk driving and unsafe sex. In fact, alcohol contributes to all the leading causes of death for young Australians. So if you want to reduce the chances of injury and other health risks, children and people under 18 years of age should not drink alcohol at all.

Women Who Are Pregnant or Breastfeeding

If you’re expecting or planning a pregnancy, it’s wise to stay away from alcohol to protect your unborn child from danger. The same goes for breastfeeding women; not drinking alcohol is safest for their babies.

What Is Considered a Standard Drink?

As stated above, according to the National Health and Medical Research Council’s guidelines, a standard drink is any beverage containing 10 grams of pure alcohol. Whether you’re drinking beer, wine or spirits mixed with soft drinks, fruit juice, water or ice, 10 grams of alcohol is still considered a standard drink. 

You can also refer to the below figures as a rough guide to a standard drink according to alcohol type.

  • Light beer (2.7% alc/vol) 425 mL
  • Mid-strength beer (3.5% alc/vol) 375 mL
  • Full-strength beer (4.9% alc/vol) 285 mL
  • Regular cider (4.9% alc/vol) 285 mL 
  • Sparkling wine (13% alc/vol) 100 mL
  • Wine (13% alc/vol) 100 mL
  • Fortified wine, like sherry or port (20% alc/vol), 60 mL
  • Spirits, like vodka, gin, rum or whiskey (40% alc/vol) 30 mL

Safer Drinking Is Not Completely Safe

There is always a risk involved with drinking alcohol. Your level of risk also depends on your age, health and other circumstances. For some, there is even no such thing as low-risk drinking. So before you grab a drink, consider the potential consequences. Consuming no alcohol is still the safest route. 

Personalise According to Your Well-Being

The guidelines presented by the National Health and Medical Research Council are for healthy people only. The low-risk thresholds vary from person to person, and several factors need to be considered. That’s why it’s best to take a personalised approach to determine the safer drinking level for you.

Discuss how much alcohol is considered a low-level risk for you with your doctor. Your GP can assess your entire medical history to help you give the correct number.

You may need to decrease the amount of alcohol you consume as you age or if you are managing certain health conditions, such as your blood pressure.

Have You Considered Your Alcohol Intake?

Now is a good time to gauge your current drinking habits to determine whether you’re still drinking at a low-risk level. Depending on your health, you might even want to consider quitting entirely. Remember, it’s easier to control your alcohol consumption than manage the risks involved with alcohol. If you need help with your alcohol consumption, don’t hesitate to seek help. You can reach out to the National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline for free, confidential advice about alcohol and other drugs; simply call 1800 250 015.

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