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Confused about Responsible Drinking? You're not alone

July 26, 2019

The annual FARE (Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education) alcohol poll this year has come back with some surprising results.

Most Australians consider themselves to be responsible drinkers, yet a high percentage of them will consume alcohol with the intention of getting drunk. Here's a fun fact: 68% of drinkers who consume 11 or more standard drinks on a typical occasion consider themselves to be responsible drinkers.

From all directions we're told to 'drink responsibly', or that drinking is 'safe in moderation'. But what one person might call responsible and safe, another might just think reckless. Not many people can actually give a clear definition of how to drink responsibly. Although 57% of Australians are aware that there are drinking guidelines, only 18% of people are aware of the content of these guidelines.

The Guidelines

Here's a quick rundown of the government endorsed guidelines for reducing risk from drinking alcohol. The Australian drinking guidelines are published by the National Health and Medical Research Council, which gives recommendations for drinking alcohol to reduce health risks. If you're interested you can check out the guidelines directly at the following link: https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/health-advice/alcohol.

First thing you should know is that the guidelines do not guarantee that any level of drinking can be considered completely 'safe'. What they can do is give advice on how to minimise the risk of short and long-term harm from alcohol consumption.

  • To reduce the long-term risk of alcohol related harm over a lifetime, healthy adults should drink no more than 2 standard drinks a day. This reduces (but does not eliminate) the lifetime risks of drinking such as addiction, various cancers and brain damage.
  • Short term risks can be reduced by drinking no more than 4 standard drinks on any single occasion. These risks include accidents, injuries and harm from binge drinking.
  • People who should avoid drinking include those under 18 years of age, and anyone who is pregnant, planning to be pregnant or breastfeeding.
What does that mean for you?

The guidelines above are a good start, but drinking responsibly is more than that. It means being aware of any factors which might affect how you tolerate alcohol, such as your physical condition, whether you're giving your body time to metabolise the alcohol and whether you've eaten before drinking. If you're planning on driving, being responsible often means not drinking at all.

Now consider that 79% of people who consume 6-10 standard drinks on a 'typical occasion', consider themselves to be a responsible drinker.

Perhaps it's time to re-evaluate what you consider to be responsible drinking?