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Alcohol - drinking too much

alcohol; drive; drinking; drunk; binge; binging; driving; standard; party; alcoholism; spiked; spiking; blood; drug; drugs; alcoholic;

Contents

What is an alcohol problem?

People have different ideas about what 'problem drinking' or an 'alcohol problem' is – but most would agree that it involves a level of alcohol use which causes ongoing troubles in the lives of the alcohol users and of their families and friends.

Some of the problems could be:

  • drinking leading to arguments and fights
  • problems at work, like being late, not turning up for work, causing accidents at work because of being drunk or hung-over
  • problems at school, TAFE, Uni like being late, taking days off, not getting work done or in on time
  • being in road accidents because of being drunk or hung-over
  • money worries because all the money is spent on alcohol
  • being arrested for drink-driving, having drink-driving fines to pay, loss of driver's licence, or going to jail
  • health problems - alcohol can be pretty rough on the body
  • becoming dependent on alcohol (sometimes called alcoholism)
  • drinking more and more alcohol to feel the effects.

"At 12 years old I started drinking alcohol. I was drinking daily by the time I was 15. I drank to forget about everything. My family had booted me into a foster home and I felt rejected and lonely. Alcohol made me feel like nothing mattered. The last bad night I had, I woke up the next day in a sobering-up unit to find out I had done $1,000 property damage and had assaulted two people, one of whom was a woman. This is when I realised it had gone too far. When I realised, I did something about it. By doing something about it, I have changed my life from feeling 100% hopeless to 98% the other way around".
Keith, 23 years

Recommended drinking guidelines

  • For the general adult population, on average, it is recommended that women and men should not drink more than two standard drinks a day. Have a look at the topic 'Alcohol – the facts' for more information about standard drinks.
  • Drinking at these levels reduces the long-term risk of health problems due to alcohol - but, remember, people vary, and these guidelines may be too high for you.
  • Even at these levels, drinking alcohol during pregnancy could do harm to an unborn baby. No alcohol during pregnancy is recommended.

For more information have a look at the National Health and Medical Research Council 'Australian Guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol' Guidelines

Reducing the risks

  • Don't drink for at least several hours before doing something that may be risky, such as driving, swimming, rock climbing or boating. (remember - no alcohol before driving if you are an L or P plate driver… more information below).
  • Eat before you drink. This slows down the absorption of alcohol. But avoid salty foods as they make you thirsty, so you might drink more.
  • Have a glass of water or soft drink to quench your thirst before having the first alcoholic drink.
  • Try low-alcohol drinks.
  • Have an alcohol-free drink between drinks containing alcohol.
  • Decide how many drinks you'll have before going out, and stick to it.
  • Count your drinks.
  • Don't try to keep up with other drinkers.
  • Try non-alcoholic drinks or cocktails.
  • Know when you've had enough and say so.
  • Only get in a car with sober drivers - decide who'll be the designated driver before you go out.
  • Don't let other people top up your drinks - and finish one before starting another.
  • Don't put alcohol or drugs in other people's drinks, or leave your drink where it could be 'spiked'.
  • Have regular alcohol free days.
  • Stay away from 'binge drinkers'.

Driving and alcohol

Drivers who have been drinking have an increased risk of being involved in a crash.

Have a look at 'How does alcohol affect driving? from the Australian Drug Foundation.

  • Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) is the amount of alcohol present in the blood, measured in grams per 100 ml.
  • On average, for experienced drivers:
    • 0.05 BAC doubles the risk of being involved in a crash
    • 0.08 BAC increases the risk 5 times
    • 0.16 BAC increases the risk 26 times.
  • The combination of alcohol and other drugs can be deadly.

It is an offence for Learners (L) permit and Provisional (P) licence holders to drive with any blood alcohol concentration. They should have a zero BAC when driving.

If they register a BAC between zero and 0.049:

  • the court may impose a fine of up to $1,250.
  • they will be disqualified from driving for 6 months.

If they register a BAC over 0.049, the penalties for a fully licensed driver also apply. These depend on the BAC and previous convictions, and include fines, disqualification, demerit points (for fully licensed drivers) and possible imprisonment.

The qualified driver accompanying a learner driver must not have a BAC of or exceeding 0.05.

Plan ahead to avoid drink driving

  • Leave your car at home and take a taxi, bus or train.
  • Decide who will be the non-drinking person/driver (the 'designated driver').
  • Share a ride with others - but never get into a car when the driver has been drinking.
  • Arrange for someone to collect you at the end of the night out.
  • Stay overnight.

Warnings:

After a drinking session in the evening, your BAC may not drop below the legal limit until the afternoon of the next day….or later!

Drinking coffee, eating, vomiting, sleeping or having a shower will not help reduce your BAC.

Having a party?

You do not need to have alcohol at parties. Parties should be fun but alcohol can cause problems.

If you are going to have alcohol available:

  • Make sure you have some low-alcohol and no-alcohol drinks.
  • Use small glasses.
  • Have food available.
  • Let people know if there is alcohol in a drink such as punch or fruit cup and let them fill their own glasses.
  • If they've drunk too much, don't let them drive - either call a cab, ask a non-drinker to give them a lift home, or give them a bed for the night.

Our topic It's party time! has some more tips about parties

Josh says:

"Having a party with friends is great fun. Unfortunately, some people go around gate-crashing parties, and think it's fun to spike drinks.

If you go to parties, make sure that you keep yourself safe from idiots like that. Look at our topic on 'Spiking drinks' for some ideas to keep yourself safe".

Resources

South Australia

Australia

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The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Youth Healthline on 1300 13 17 19 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).
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