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Many of us enjoy a drink now and then, though it’s important to know the limits to stay happy and healthy. Over time, drinking too much can lead to anxiety, depression, poor sleep, weight gain, and a weakened immune system. But, as drinking alcohol is so commonplace in Australia, you might not notice when you’re overdoing it. Low-level dependence can gradually increase over time until alcohol becomes a real problem. So, to help you make better choices, here’s the low down on alcohol.

How much is too much?

The Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol advise that:

  • Adults shouldn’t drink any more than two standard drinks on any day, or four on a single occasion, to reduce the lifetime risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury.
  • Children and people under 18 shouldn’t drink at all.
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women and those planning a pregnancy are advised not to drink. Maternal alcohol consumption can harm the developing foetus or breastfeeding baby.

How do I know how much I’m drinking?

Alcoholic drinks come in a huge range of strengths and serving sizes. So, track standard drinks to know how much you’ve had. A standard drink is about 10 grams of alcohol, but that can be less than you might think. For example, an average glass of wine served at a restaurant is 1.5 standard drinks. If possible, check the label on the bottle or can for the standard drinks it contains. You can find out more here.

You can also use a tracking app like Drinks Meter.

Alcohol and weight gain

If you’re worried about weight gain, avoiding alcohol is a healthy choice. Alcohol has almost as many kilojoules as pure fat (and that is before the addition of sugary mixers). One approach to reduce your alcohol consumption is to alternate alcoholic drinks with glasses of water when you’re drinking.

Here’s how many kilojoules are in a standard drink. Keep in mind that the average adult Australian needs just 8,700kJ a day and any kilojoules you don’t use, get stored in the body as fat.

  • Mid strength beer (375mL) 454 kJ
  • Vodka, lime & soda 294kJ
  • Red wine (150mL) 481kJ
  • Mojito 812kJ
  • Espresso martini 933kJ
  • Rum and cola (375mL) 641kJ
  • Apple cider (450mL) 845kJ

Strategies to reduce drinking

If you’re concerned about drinking, it can be useful to have some strategies in place so you’re prepared when you’re tempted by alcohol. Strategies include:

  • organise alcohol-free activities with your friends instead of going out for a drink
  • suggest venues where non-alcoholic drinks are also available
  • socialise more often with friends who don’t drink
  • say no to drinks — prepare and practice your responses before you head out
  • volunteer to be the designated driver
  • drink something non-alcoholic like sparkling water with lime
  • choose low-strength alcohol or zero alcohol alternatives
  • remove temptation by not keeping alcohol in your home
  • count standard drinks to keep track
  • set yourself a limit and stick to it.

Get help

If you think you might be drinking too much and the strategies above aren’t enough, seek professional advice or join a self-help group. If you think a friend or family member may have a problem with alcohol, seek help.

Adis 24/7 Alcohol and Drug Support offers free support for people in Queensland with alcohol concerns. This includes phone support for individuals, families, friends, and health professionals, and information, self-assessment tools, and downloadable resources.

Call 1800 177 833 or visit adis.health.qld.gov.au