Lifestyle

How to tell if you drink too much

How do we know when we’re drinking too much?
How do we know when we’re drinking too much?

WHILE alcohol is a legal and common way many societies stimulate social interaction, when consumed at high levels over long periods it can undermine physical health and cause cancers and other disease. Most people know excessive drinking isn't good for our health, but how do we know when we're drinking too much?

Alcohol consumption is associated with long- and short-term consequences. Long-term health consequences include: alcohol-related diseases such as cirrhosis of the liver; stroke; high blood pressure; heart disease; and more than 60 cancers, including of the mouth, lips, throat, oesophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver, bowel and breast.

Short-term health consequences include fatalities, physical injury or road accidents due to impaired cognitive performance and diminished reaction times.

Social consequences may include domestic violence, absenteeism, violence and crime.

How much is safe to drink?

It's important to know the recommendations on drinking to ensure we're not drinking too much for our own health and for the safety of others.

In 2009, the National Health and Medical Research Council updated the Australian drinking guidelines. The guidelines contain four recommendations to ensure our drinking is "low risk". Low risk is defined as drinking at a level that reduces the chance an individual will suffer from short-term injury or long-term disease.

Healthy men and women are advised not to drink more than two standard drinks on any one day. If a person drinks less than that, the probability he or she will suffer from long-term alcohol-related disease (such as cancer) is approximately one in 100.

For both men and women, drinking no more than four standard drinks on a single occasion reduces the risk of alcohol-related injury to one in 100. Risk of injury includes physical injury, or road accidents due to impaired cognitive performance and diminished reaction times.

Short-term risky drinking is most often associated with intoxication. Intoxication in its mildest form produces slight changes in inhibition, reduced co-ordination and decreased alertness. More extreme forms may involve slurred speech, boisterous or aggressive behaviour, inappropriate sexual behaviour, swaying, rambling conversation and difficulty concentrating.

Who can drink?

Pregnant women are advised to avoid alcohol because of the possibility of alcohol passing through the placenta into the embryo. This may affect brain and other developments of the child.

Evidence shows the brains of children under the age of 18 are still developing. Thus it is recommended children under the age of 18 should avoid consuming alcohol. Consuming alcohol before the age of 18 also increases the risk of numerous poor developmental and social outcomes.

Settings and their associated customs and norms can influence how much alcohol we consume. People will often consume more alcohol in settings like bars, nightclubs and sports clubs, for example. This is usually because alcohol in these settings is sold, managed and marketed in ways that encourage easier or greater consumption.

People should be aware of this phenomoneon and try to consciously consume moderate amounts in these types of settings.

Symptoms of drinking too much

While all drinking has elements of long- and short-term risk, consistent drinking can lead to dependence and other alcohol-related problems. If you find it hard to stop drinking after you have started, you do things that are not normally expected of you because of your drinking, or you feel you sometimes need a drink in the morning, you may be showing signs of dependence and should consult your GP or a health practitioner.

Another sign of dependence is that, over time, greater amounts of alcohol are required to achieve intoxication. Persistent use and being preoccupied with your consumption, despite evidence of harm, is another sign your drinking might be unhealthily habitual.

If you feel guilty after drinking, have injured someone because of your drinking, or someone has suggested you reduce your drinking, you should also consider talking to someone about your alcohol consumption.

Steps to reduce alcohol consumption

While alcohol is part of our world, we can reduce the risk of short-term harm, disease and dependence. For adults, it is advised you have no more than two standard drinks a day. On any one day it is advised adults should not consume more than four standard drinks in a session.

A good way to cut down on your drinking is to start by ensuring you are having at least one to two alcohol-free days. On these days, you may want to substitute an alcoholic drink with something else, like sugar-free tonic water. This has a sophisticated taste but has no calories or alcohol.

Because of the long- and short-term risks, there should always be room to reduce your alcohol consumption. Perhaps in the long term you could try to avoid consumption during weekdays.

When going to functions where alcohol will be available, have a strategy rehearsed in your mind as to how and why you will not consume alcohol. You may say it is one of your alcohol-free days, you are not drinking today, or you are pacing yourself this week.

People are more health-conscious these days so tend to be more open about not drinking for health and well-being reasons. A non-alcoholic substitute drink will help you feel more socially integrated in these settings.

We should also ensure our children avoid alcohol before the age of 18. This is the safest way of maximising their health and human potential.

Bosco Rowland is a Senior Research Fellow, School of Psychology, Deakin University.

This article appears courtesy of The Conversation. Read the original article here.

The Conversation

Topics:  alcohol, drinking, health


Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Brisbane, Gold Coast airports hit by Border Force strikes

Extensive rolling stoppages to start today

More than 9000 Queensland kids in foster care

The Department of Communities and Child Safety suspended or cancelled the permits of 30 carers last year while it substantiated 144 cases of harm to children.

30 foster carers banned as 144 cases of harm to children revealed.

Hospital emergency: Thousands clog ED with minor issues

EMERGENCY CALL: Ipswich Hospital's emergency department has been swamped in the past 12 months by people presenting with very minor issues.

Residents need to stop presenting with only minor treatment issues

Local Partners

UPDATE: Woman remains in critical condition after crash

VIDEO: A woman is fighting for her life after an accident this morning

Dad defends letting five year old do burnout

Five-year-old Riley Dobson has become a viral sensation after his dad Alex filmed him doing a burnout on their Thagoona property.

The single dad says he built the car with his son

Hospital emergency: Thousands clog ED with minor issues

EMERGENCY CALL: Ipswich Hospital's emergency department has been swamped in the past 12 months by people presenting with very minor issues.

Residents need to stop presenting with only minor treatment issues

Police appeal for witnesses to fatal motorcycle crash

Scene of a fatality where male motorcycle rider lost his life on Augusta Parkway at Brookwater.Photo: Contributed

Police have ruled out a white ute from their investigations.

PHOTOS: Marty's graveyard shift in memory of daughters, wife

RESTING PLACE: Martin Kelly at the grave site of two of his daughters, Gayle and Lynne, and his wife Elva.

90-year-old keeping up family's legacy but needs help

Welfare group protests against circus at Redbank

The Lennon Brothers Circus has erected their tents at Redbank.

Lennon Bros use of lions has group riled up

Cyndi Palmer's tribute to murdered daughter

Cyndi Palmer addresses the media.

Mum of murdered schoolgirl calls for public not to speculate on case

MPs say meatworks bosses should take pay cut

JBS Meatworks and abattoir at Dinmore. Beef cattle processing and kill floor.

Workers are taking a 25% pay cut each time shift is cut at the plant

Classic car auction draws buyers from US, Dubai

"He wants everyone to enjoy the cars, the collection got too big'

Emily Blunt's (almost) singing career

Emily Blunt nearly became the British Britney Spears.

Angelina is blocking calls from Brad Pritt

Angelina Jolie has reportedly blocked Brad Pitt's number.

Apocalyptica 'seek and destroy' sceptics with 'master' set

Apocalyptica play Max Watts in Brisbane on their Shadowmaker Tour.

Review of final show of Apocalyptica's tour

Rebecca Hall doesn't own a TV

Newspapers, yes. Television, not so much

Jaime King 'terrified' by son's heart surgery

Jamie King was "terrified" when her son went in for heart surgery.

John Mayer's advice for Shawn Mendes

Shawn Mendes has revealed John Mayer gave him advice

Five ways to slash household bills and save the environment

THINK GREEN: Considering the environment when building or buying your next home can save you big dollars. The Village Building Company, who is responsible for Woodlinks Village at Collingwood Park, builds homes with this front of mind.

THERE is nothing as sweet as slashing dollars from your bills.

Property 200m from ocean selling for just over $100K

BEACHCOMBER PARK: Work has started on a new $19.2 million development at Toogoom.

The estate's developer is offering huge discounts for early buyers.

UPDATE: Former rodeo champ's sale rained out, now back on

Larkhill local Ken Consiglio is having an auction of most of the things on his property.

'People kept showing up and we had to turn them away'

First stages of $25 million housing development underway

New development on Madsen Rd - The Springs.

The blocks of land are much bigger than usual

Couple build their own 'tiny house' for $45k

Holly Bowen and Oli Bucher built their "tiny house" themselves, only hiring a plumber and an electrician. Photo/supplied

The house, which is built on a trailer and can be towed.

Rocky proves prime real estate in latest REIQ report

Kas Woch sold this Wood St home in Depot Hill for $107,000 in August.

A new investor's market as Rocky house prices hit lowest in state