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.

Noosa woman breaking the cycle of poverty in Nepal

GOOD DEED: Laguna Jacks manager John Whimpress (right) is organising a fundraiser for Alissa Hill, with proceeds going to Alissa's orphanage in Nepal called Sunshine Children's Home.

Alissa Hill has helped many children in Nepal thrive

Noosa's welcome is warm embrace

PNG highlander Julie ha never before seen the ocean before her visit to Noosa.

PNG mum says thanks Noosa

Deadly ticks a Noosa threat

Paralysis tick

Noosa tick warning

Local Partners

Step into the World of Lace in Pomona

FOR 35 years, the World of Lace has been making some of the finest laces from a family-owned and operated factory.

Love comes back on course for Katy and Bertie

Katy Dixon and her long lost Berty the once lovesick swan with his family at home on the Noosa Springs lake.

Noosa swan find true love on course

Noosa woman breaking the cycle of poverty in Nepal

GOOD DEED: Laguna Jacks manager John Whimpress (right) is organising a fundraiser for Alissa Hill, with proceeds going to Alissa's orphanage in Nepal called Sunshine Children's Home.

Alissa Hill has helped many children in Nepal thrive

Noosa's welcome is warm embrace

PNG highlander Julie ha never before seen the ocean before her visit to Noosa.

PNG mum says thanks Noosa

Deadly ticks a Noosa threat

Paralysis tick

Noosa tick warning

Turning tables in food supply

The special Country Noosa dinner was a real hit.

Noosa Country serves up food for thought

Melanie is eager for life and wants you to be too

FIT IT IN: Nutritionist Melanie Eager wants others to be inspired to exercise .

Pomona woman runs from the Sunshine Coast to the Gold Coast

Noosa kids take action to help environment

Good Shepherd Lutheran College students are right into the bio learning conference.

Noosa kids take enviro action

Caloundra Music Festival: A decade of highs, lows and great music

Caloundra Music Festival director Richie Eyles before the 2014 event.

Near drownings and cyclonic conditions among festival's history

Angelina is blocking calls from Brad Pritt

Angelina Jolie has reportedly blocked Brad Pitt's number.

Festival's green initiatives capture worldwide attention

The Caloundra Music Festival's BYO Bottle initiative has captured international attention.

BYO Bottle campaign a sustainable success story

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

Caloundra Music Festival: A decade of highs, lows and great music

Caloundra Music Festival director Richie Eyles before the 2014 event.

Near drownings and cyclonic conditions among festival's history

Jaime King 'terrified' by son's heart surgery

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

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

Sunshine Beach property breaks real estate record

The property overlooks Sunshine Beach, as the backyard lawn meets the sand.

Sunshine Beach mansion sale smashes real estate record