It’s sociable, relaxing for many and plays a big part in celebrations — alcohol is so entrenched in our cultural fabric that it is easy to forget it is a drug.

There are serious health issues associated with long-term alcohol use and, according to the Cancer Council, more than 5000 cases of cancer in Australia each year are directly attributable to long-term chronic use of alcohol. Alcohol overuse is a significant risk factor for some cancers.

The Department of Health and Ageing says the health risks that accumulate from alcohol increase progressively; in other words, the more you drink, the greater your risk.

For men, the guidelines say no more than four standard drinks a day on average and no more than six standard drinks on any one day, with one or two alcohol-free days per week.

For women, it’s no more than two standard drinks a day on average and no more than four standard drinks on any one day also with one or two alcohol-free days per week.

These drinks should be spread over several hours.

Many people find it difficult to understand exactly what constitutes a standard drink — and it varies greatly.

For example, a 375ml bottle or can of full-strength beer is 1.4 standard drinks, while 375ml of mid-strength is one standard drink. In the average 750ml bottle of white wine there are about 6.8 standard drinks, but in a similar-sized bottle of red, there are at least 7.7.

Henshaw Consulting clinical psychologist Sophie Henshaw said a major problem surrounding excessive consumption of alcohol was that it was still frequently seen as cool and fun.

With popular mainstream singles on Australian radio even glorifying hangovers and Australia Day, for many years, having been synonymous with drunkards.

“We call it ‘a couple of beers’ or ‘a big night’ or ‘I’m going to kick back’, which invariably means that the person will be drinking well in excess of what is considered a binge, ” Dr Henshaw said.

“As long as you stay within the standard drinks per week guidelines, there should be no problem. Your body tells you when you’ve had enough — when you start feeling tipsy — and that is a signal to stop. If you go past that point, you have a reason for doing it; for example, you may be a ‘motivated drinker’.”

She said “motivated drinkers” were those who drank to excess because they thought they were funnier or more likable after a few drinks or they felt drinking to excess was fun and harmless.

If alcohol had become a problem, you needed to become aware of what you told yourself that allowed excessive drinking and consider the detrimental effects on your health, work and personal life. If the situation was serious, seek a counsellor for help.

Want to drink less?

•Order a fruity mocktail rather than a cocktail.

•Swap or dilute strong alcoholic drinks for those that use soda water or soft drink.

•Finish a drink instead of topping it up. This way you keep track of how much you are consuming.

•Have a non-alcoholic beverage between each alcoholic one.

•Don’t purchase bulk amounts or cartons.

•Try eating out instead of “drinking out” with friends.

•Socialising during the day may reduce the temptation to drink, for example, breakfast dates.

•Eat before or while drinking.

•Learn to be confident without relying on alcohol to have fun.

Keep on track

Reduce your alcohol consumption with the help of these apps and sites:

50 Ways To Leave Your Lager

True to the name, there are 50 practical steps to overcoming the booze on this very helpful site, put together by British counsellor Georgia Powell. Beginning with how to admit and address the problem, there are tips such as working out how much money is spent on alcohol, keeping a drinking diary and avoiding making unachievable goals. There is also advice on getting your mind and body prepared for change, the nitty gritty of actually cutting down or cutting it out, and techniques for how to seize back control of your life.

Hello Sunday Morning

Fancy being alcohol free and turning around your life in 12 weeks? Sign up to Hello Sunday Morning, a project started by then 22-year-old Aussie Chris Raine who decided to give alcohol up for a year and challenge the notion that you need to drink to have fun or be confident. The movement aims to help people reassess the value of drinking, create change in their own lives and hopefully a better alcohol culture all round.


This app is a blood alcohol content calculator to track how many beverages are consumed before your chosen BAC is reached. Enter gender, age, height, weight and the target BAC, and then input how many and what type of drinks are consumed to get a reading.


An app with games to see how well you can balance and type the alphabet backwards, as well as contacts to block to prevent “drunk dialling” and a simplified blood alcohol calculator to judge roughly how many drinks you can consume in the time specified.


© The West Australian

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