This page contains information about the short and long term harms associated with drinking and tips for reducing risky and high risk drinking.
Back to Top
What are the harms associated with drinking to intoxication?
Fast FactsFour Australians under 25 die due to alcohol related injuries in an average week.
One in two Australians 15-17 who get drunk will do something they regret.
70 Australians under 25 will be hospitalised due to alcohol-caused assault in an average week.
On average, 1 in 4 hospitalisations of people 15-24 happen because of alcohol.
Drinking to intoxication can put you into situations that might be dangerous, embarrassing, or which you may later regret. Every time you drink, you are at risk of causing harm to yourself or others. Risky and/or high risk drinking can result in both short and long-term harms, including:Back to Top
The risks associated with short-term
harm can include immediate health and social problems, such as:
- injuries from violence (as a perpetrator, a victim, or a witness);
- pedestrian and road accidents (death/severe injury);
Guidelines at a glance
For healthy men & women:
* Drinking no more than 2 standard drinks on any day reduces the lifetime risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury.
* Drinking no more than 4 standard drinks on a single occasion reduces the risk of alcohol-related injury (arising from that occasion).
- trauma related admissions to hospital emergency departments;
- alcohol poisoning;
- social and personal consequences such as the impact on families and social embarrassment;
- loss of valuable items ie phone or wallet; and
- having unprotected sex and placing yourself at greater risk of a sexually transmitted infection (STI) and/or an unwanted pregnancy.Back to Top
Risky and high risk drinking during early adulthood may also have serious longer-term
- social problems, such as spending more time drinking than pursuing other interests;
- brain damage, including the inability to learn and remember things;
- depression and suicidal thoughts;
- the development of chronic disease, including some cancers and heart disease;
- cirrhosis of the liver; and
- dependence on alcohol.Back to Top
Levels of risk
The 2009 Australian Alcohol Guidelines (AAGs)1
provide a framework for categorising low risk,risky and high risk drinking for both short and long-term harm.
The level of risk associated with drinking both in the short term and the long term depends on a variety of factors. But generally:
- Low risk levels define a level of drinking at which there is a minimal risk of harm.
- Risky levels are those at which the risk of harm is significantly increased beyond any possible benefits.
- High risk drinking levels are those at which there is substantial risk of serious harm, and above which risk continues to increase rapidly.Back to Top
What is a standard drink size?1
Description of image
One drink is not always a standard drink. A standard drink contains 10 grams of alcohol.
Keeping count of standard drinks is a much more reliable method of how much alcohol you consume rather than counting glasses, bottles or cans.
The number of drinks referred to in the AAGs (Australian Alcohol Guidelines) is based on the standard drink measurement.
See the Standard Drinks Guide
for more information.Back to Top
Supplying alcohol to a person under 18 in a licensed venue or public place is illegal in most states. The person supplying and receiving the alcohol could be fined.
Excessive drinking can lead to alcohol-related violence and assault, and could lead to a criminal record or fines for those persons found guilty of an offence.
It is also illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol when over the legal blood alcohol limit. In some states if you are a learner or provisional driver, having any alcohol in your system is illegal. The 0.05 blood alcohol limit applies for full licensed drivers aged over 18 in most states,
Drink driving puts the driver, passengers, pedestrians and other drivers at serious risk of injury or death.2
You may not realise it at the time, but alcohol seriously affects your general driving judgement and reactions times.
Losing your license from drink driving or having a criminal record from alcohol-related assault or violence will impact your life more than you think. It can limit job opportunities and hanging out with friends.
Tips for reducing risky and high risk drinking
- Know your limits and aim to stick to them. Avoid peer pressure and drinking more than you want to.
- Avoid drinking games. This includes shots, skolling and/or activities aimed at drinking to get drunk quickly.
- Know what you are drinking. Not all drinks are a standard drink size. Some pre-mixed spirits contain the equivalent to two standard drinks but are easy to drink due to artificial flavours and sugars.
- Alternate your drinks with non-alcoholic varieties. For every alcoholic drink, plan to alternate with a non-alcoholic beverage, such as soft-drink, water or a mocktail.
- Eat before and during drinking. Ensure you have a decent meal, particularly if you are planning a big night. Organise to have dinner with your friends at someone’s place or arrange to meet out somewhere.
- Avoid rounds or shouts. You are likely to drink more to keep up with your friends.
- Move about and keep active. Get up, move around and dance to avoid continuous drinking.
- Avoid top ups. Finish your drink before you go for a refill. This will allow you to keep track of how much you’ve had.Back to Top
Stay safe and plan ahead4
- Make sure you always plan ahead for a night out.
- Arrange a designated driver or plan to get a taxi or bus home.
- Ensure you can call a friend or family member if you need help.
- To avoid drink spiking, watch your drink at all times, and never leave it unattended.
- Keep an eye out for your friends. Keep a general watch over their drinks, actions and assist if they need help or have had too much to drink.
For more information, see 'The facts about binge drinking'4Back to Top
If you or a friend is experiencing problems with alcohol or other related issues there are help and support services available for young people. Visit our Need help? page for further information.
Back to Top