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Alcohol: The Facts

Wasted. Drunk. Tipsy. Trashed. These are just some of the effects alcohol can have on you if you consume too much at once. If you are going to drink, it’s important to know what alcohol is and how it can alter your behaviour, your body – and even your brain. Alcohol is a drug, it’s also addictive, so it can have pretty big effects on you both long and short term.

So, what is alcohol?

Beer, wine, spirits (like rum or vodka), mixers, champagne – these are all everyday types of alcohol. Alcoholic drinks have an ingredient called ethyl alcohol, which is what makes you drunk (another term for drunk is ‘intoxicated’).  Some drinks have more ethyl alcohol than others. To know how much alcohol a drink contains always read the label.

Due to the different ways that alcohol can affect people, there is no amount of alcohol that can be said to be safe for everyone. People choosing to drink must realise that there will always be some risk to their health and social well-being.

There are ways to minimise drinking risks. Such as:
  • Set limits for yourself and stick to them (for instance, two drinks for the evening only)
  • Start with non-alcoholic drinks, like water or soft-drink and alternate with alcoholic drinks
  • Drink slowly
  • Keep an eye on your drink. Don’t leave your drink unattended.
  • Try drinks with a lower alcohol content (light beer is a great alternative)
  • Eat before or while you are drinking (you need to eat at least as much as a small bowl of pasta or a sandwich)
  • If you participate in rounds of drinks try to include some non-alcoholic drinks (soda & lime, anyone?)
  • Plan safe transport home
What is the legal age for drinking?

There are two types of laws governing underage drinking:

  1. Australian Liquor Laws: The legal drinking age in Australia is 18 years. It is against the law in  all state and Territories for those 18 years to buy alcohol or drink alcohol in licensed premises (like restaurants or bars) or in public places.
  2. Secondary Supply Laws: The laws regarding the supply of alcohol to under 18 year olds have changed in some state and territories.  Your parents/or guardians need to be aware of these changes – particularly in regard to common occurrences such as hosting a teenage party in the family home or staying over at a friend’s place.

If your parents or guardians are found to be supplying alcohol to under 18’s, in some states this could lead to a really expensive fine (yikes!).

So to recap: Secondary Supply Laws are different in each state and territory. You need to be aware of the laws in effect where you live. Click on the relevant link below, to find out more:

What is a standard drink in Australia?

A standard drink is one drink which contains 10 grams of alcohol. It can be really hard to keep track of how many standard drinks you have consumed, as often drink sizes can differ greatly. For example an average bottle of beer is one and a half standard drinks.

To understand the alcohol content of different drinks better, check out this standard drink calculator (you may need to scroll down).

Alcohol + Sex? Um…maybe not!

The are problems we can encounter when we mix drinking with sex such as lack of coordination and in some cases, a lack of consent (consent means saying yes or no to a sexual encounter).

Read more about sex, alcohol and consent here.

Getting help

If you’re worried about your drinking or that of a friend or loved one, it helps to talk about it. Think about talking through the issue with friends or family. Your school counsellor or youth worker may also be able to help.

Mental health organisations like Beyond Blue, Headspace and Reach Out are also great places to seek help. It’s all completely confidential and free.

Most of the information for this post has been taken from the Australian Government website on alcohol. For more information on alcohol in Australia, check out: www.alcohol.gov.au