Written by Dr Justine Tuffley
I am often surprised by what people think is a reasonable amount to drink on a Saturday night. When I say reasonable, I mean “not dangerous”, more in line with a sensible amount, nothing excessive. A typical answer would be 6-10 beers or perhaps 3-4 glasses of wine. This is a question I regularly ask during a course that covers the topic of Substance Use Disorder.
New Alcohol Guidelines were released at the end of 2020, but in my experience very few people were aware of, or followed, the previous guidelines. While everyone is aware of the legal blood alcohol limit for driving, not so many of us are familiar with the level of drinking that seriously increases your risk of alcohol related injury or illness.
There is no safe level of drinking. It is not true that one drink every hour is safe. Alternating water and beers does not eliminate your risk. You cannot drink endless light beer. If you weigh 100kg that does not mean you can 5 more stubbies than your 60kg mate.
The new alcohol guidelines aim to reduce the risks of injury and illness that are associated with drinking. The short-term dangers include the dreaded hangover, but far more serious consequences are head injury (often from falling over while intoxicated), car accidents and assault. The long-term dangers include cumulative damage to the brain and liver, and an increased risk of multiple types of cancer.
Here is a summary of the new guidelines:
Have no more than 4 standard drinks* in one day to reduce your risk of injury and accidents
Have no more than 10 standard drinks* a week to reduce your risk of cancers, including breast, stomach and bowel.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not drink alcohol to reduce harm to their baby
Anyone under 18 should not drink alcohol to help prevent negative impacts on the developing brain and riskier levels of drinking when they are older
I have also observed that people often underestimate what a standard drink equates to. For anyone unsure, my advice is to check the label on your bottle or can, as it is a legal requirement in Australia that all packaged alcohol includes the number of standard drinks on its label.
Hopefully the new guidelines give a clearer breakdown on how many drinks a day and a week people should be thinking about having, if any.