Am I drinking too much?

Alcohol is incredibly common in Australia. It’s difficult to avoid, especially as a teenager.

If you’re worried about your relationship with alcohol, it might be time to reflect on the impact alcohol can have and work out some limits you’re comfortable with. Read on for tips on slowing down your drinks or stopping altogether.

But first, let’s consider the way alcohol affects our body and mind. There are a lot of factors that have an impact on your reaction to drinking, such as your age; body weight; mood; where you are, and who you are drinking with.

The more you drink, the more serious the effects of alcohol will be. Although alcohol can be safe to drink in moderate amounts, it can also be really dangerous — potentially fatal — if you drink too much. In Australia, alcohol is one of the leading causes of drug-related deaths among teenagers. Scary stuff.

What kind of effect does alcohol have?
Some short term effect include:
  • More relaxed
  • more confident
  • uninhibited (able to say or do things you normally wouldn’t feel comfortable doing)
  • slurred speech
  • slower reflexes
  • Loss of coordination (this might cause accidents like tripping over)
  • Lack of concentration
  • flushed cheeks
  • intense moods (feeling really happy or really sad)
  • blurred vision
  • feeling sleepy
  • blackouts (not remembering what happened for a period of time)
  • alcohol poisoning
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness (passing out)
  • falling into a coma

Important: If you are with someone who is really drunk and starts vomiting, tell an adult and get them somewhere safe and quiet. Offer them water to drink. If they start to lose consciousness, call an ambulance. The ambulance will not get the police involved or get you in trouble for underage drinking.

Long term effects include:
  • stomach problems
  • concentration and long term memory problems
  • poor nutrition
  • sexual and reproductive problems
  • heart disease
  • stroke
  • liver disease
  • alcohol dependency
  • brain injury
  • cancer
How to monitor your drinking

To monitor how much you’re drinking, start by counting the number of standard drinks you have. 

Be aware that different types of drinks may contain different amounts of alcohol. 

  • One standard drink contains 10 grams of alcohol
  • Drinks like beer and cider contain less alcohol than drinks like wine and spirits, so a standard drink of beer will be bigger than a standard drink of wine
  • All alcoholic drinks sold in Australia have the number of standard drinks on the side of the bottle — always check on the label.

Here is a helpful guide to some common standard drinks:

The heading "Know your standard drinks". Below is a pint of beer with the text "Pink glass of full strength beer / 750 ml" and a bubble with the text "2.2" in reference to number of standard drinks, a glass of red wine with the text "Average restaurant serve of red wine / 150 ml" and a bubble with the text "1.6", a glass of white wine with the text "Average restaurant servce of white wine / 150 ml" and a bubble with the text "1.4", a can with the text "Pre-mix spirits can / 375 ml (5% alc/vol)" and a bubble with the text "1.5", a shot of liquor with the text "Shot of spirits / 30ml" and a bubble with the text "1.0"

You can also use Drink Wise’s standard drinks calculator to work out how much a standard drink is. Check out the facts on alcohol for some more safe drinking tips.

Hang Overs

If you drink too much in one night, you’ll probably know about it the next day. Feeling sick the day after drinking is called a “hangover”.  The more you drink, the worse the hang over will be. 

Signs of a hangover include:
  • headaches
  • craving fatty foods
  • dehydration
  • feeling down
  • nausea or vomiting
  • feeling weak or shaky
  • not remembering things that happened the night before

If you have a hangover, the best thing to do is drink lots of water and eat if you feel like it. You will be dehydrated so drinking a sports drink might help. You might need to spend the day just chilling out, or even in bed if it’s really bad.

To avoid a hangover monitor your drinks, and stop when you reach your limit. Drink water between alcoholic drinks and drink slowly — don’t try to keep up with others as you’ll probably regret it the next day.

Binge Drinking

Binge drinking is deliberately drinking to get drunk. It usually means not drinking much normally but getting really drunk sometimes (like not drinking any alcohol during the week and then getting really drunk on a Saturday night). Binge drinking can lead to some pretty bad stuff like having an accident, having unsafe sex, getting into arguments with your friends and can also cause long term health problems.

To avoid binge drinking, try to:

  • monitor the number of drinks you have
  • eat a proper meal before you start drinking
  • drink water or soft drink in between alcoholic drinks
  • drink slowly
  • don’t go in on rounds with other people
  • avoid drinking games

If you’re worried about getting too drunk, make a plan with a friend to slow down, and have them tell you if they think you’re too drunk. It’s also a great idea to check in with your friends throughout the night to make sure everyone is still having a good time. You can find more great tips at Youth Central and Reachout.

Alcoholism and Alcohol Dependency

Alcohol dependency is different to binge drinking in that instead of drinking a lot occasionally, you drink a lot regularly and become dependent on alcohol in your everyday life. Some of the warning signs of alcohol dependence include:

  • high alcohol tolerance (needing to drink more and more to get drunk)
  • worrying about when you’ll get to have your next drink
  • feeling sick when you haven’t had a drink (like sweating and nausea)
  • drinking alone regularly
  • drinking (or wanting to) in the morning
  • hiding your drinking from others
  • drinking affecting your relationships with your friends or family

If you or someone close to you is showing some of these warning signs there are heaps of places you can go for support. You can call the Counselling Online, Family Drug Support Helpline, Beyond Blue or Headspace for confidential counselling and support.

Where to get help

If you’re worried about your drinking or a friend or family member’s drinking, it can really help to talk about it. 

  • Talk to an adult you trust like a parent, teacher, school counsellor or youth worker. 
  • You can access free alcohol and drug counselling from Counselling Online 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • Mental health organisations like Beyond Blue, Headspace and Reach Out are also great places to seek help. It’s all completely confidential and free.

Need someone to talk to? Free, confidential support is available.

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