Australians enjoy a vibrant drinking culture, and alcoholic beverages are a prominent part of social gatherings, whether it’s at the local pub, a barbecue, or a celebration. Anyone who is above 18 years of age can legally purchase alcohol in Australia. While it is okay to drink occasionally and within the prescribed limit, there are times when one goes overboard with the amount of alcohol per day and some people turn to a chronic, regular intake of alcohol.   

But How Much Is Too Much?

As per the Australian Government’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) a healthy adult over 18 years of age should not consume more than 10 standard drinks per week or more than 4 standard drinks on any one day. It is not recommended for children and young adults under the age of 18 years to consume alcohol in any quantity as there is no safe level and it could be a hindrance to their continuous brain development. Alcohol should be strictly avoided for women trying to conceive, pregnant, or if they are breastfeeding.   

What is one standard drink?

One standard drink contains 10 grams of pure alcohol. The consumption quantity of the drink varies depending on the alcohol content in the drink. Here is what a standard drink looks like (approximately) 
  • 285ml full-strength beer or cider  
  • 375ml mid-strength beer  
  • 425ml light-strength beer  
  • 100ml wine  
  • 30ml of spirits such as Vodka or Whiskey etc.  
Often these restrictions are thrown to the wind and people end up consuming more than the limit. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1 in 4 Australians exceeded the Australian Adult Alcohol Guideline in 2020-2021. According to AIHW, alcohol accounted for 59% of drug-related hospitalisations in 2021-2022. Intake of alcohol within the limit and in a social setting could be a pleasurable experience but it is important to keep a tab on the tolerance level of a person and the number of drinks to mitigate the harmful effects of alcohol on the body.  

Harmful Effects of Alcohol on the Human Body:

The human body takes around 1 hour to process one standard drink of alcohol. When a person takes alcohol within the limit, he/she will experience short-term effects which would subside with a good night of sleep and hydration. When a person resorts to binge drinking or excessive drinking, it takes more time for the body to recover from the harmful effects. This could lead to what is called a hangover

What Is A Hangover?

A hangover is a collection of unpleasant symptoms that can occur after consuming excessive alcohol, typically when the effects of alcohol wear off. The severity and duration of hangover symptoms can vary depending on a variety of factors, including the amount and type of alcohol consumed, individual tolerance, hydration, and the presence of any underlying medical conditions. These symptoms could be short-term or long-term depending on the regularity of the consumption.  

Short-Term Effects Of Binge Drinking:

  • Dehydration  
  • Headaches and dizziness  
  • Fatigue and no interest in doing any productive work.  
  • Vomiting  
  • Memory loss or blackout   
  • Unsteadiness   
The short-term effects of alcohol can be treated with hydration, eating light and easily digestible food, sleep, and rest. Unless a person drinks to a point of hospitalisation, most short-term effects of binge drinking can be recovered with personal care and at home. In cases of severe alcohol poisoning which can be life-threatening, the person would require immediate medical attention. Some of the potentially serious short-term effects such as assaults, reckless and uninhibited behaviour could lead to more serious problems and should be taken seriously. Drinking in moderation and drinking responsibly act as preventive measures against suffering a hangover. 

Long-Term Effects Of Binge Drinking:

The long-term effects of continuous and heavy alcohol intake on the other hand will lead to severe and on occasion irreversible damage to the mind and body. The main consequences of long-term binge drinking are 
  • Mental illness: Alcohol is a depressant, and it produces depressant effects on the central nervous system. Depression, anxiety, and alcohol induced hallucinations, are some of the effects of long-term binge drinking.  
  • Brain damage, stroke or dementia  
  • Alcohol dependence syndrome or substance abuse: A person cannot function without alcohol and will experience agitation, tremors, hallucinations, and other symptoms in case of unavailability of alcohol. This is a vicious cycle that may lead to deterioration of health and mind.   
  • Cancers such as stomach cancer, liver cancer, bowel cancer, oesophageal cancer etc.  
  • Liver damage such as fatty liver disease or in extreme cases liver cirrhosis   
  • Impotence and other sexual problems and fertility issues such as reduced sperm count in men.  
  • High blood pressure, heart damage. 
  • Diabetes, weight gain   
Apart from the physical and mental effects of alcohol, there are also financial losses such as job loss, stunted career growth, excessive spending on alcohol, and hospitalisation costs. A person who drinks continuously will withdraw himself/herself from their family, friends, and colleagues leading to strained relationships and unequivocal damage to the family. If a person is heavily dependent on alcohol, it is better to consult a doctor immediately to estimate the damage done to their body and mind and ensure a mental health treatment plan is in place if needed.    Excessive drinking contributes to a wide range of alcohol-related harm in Australia, including accidents, injuries, violence, and social problems. These issues place a significant burden on the healthcare system and law enforcement.   Recognising that you have a problem with alcohol and accepting it is half the battle won. Early intervention improves the potential for recovery with proper treatment. 

There are many ways to get over the habit of excessive drinking such as:  

In conclusion, excessive drinking takes a severe toll on an individual’s physical health, mental well-being, relationships, economic stability, and legal status. Recognising the adverse effects of heavy alcohol consumption is essential for individuals who may be struggling with alcohol abuse. Seeking help and support through therapy, counselling, support groups, or treatment programs, together with the supportive network of family and friends, can provide a pathway to recovery and a healthier, more fulfilling life.  

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This content is created for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. For emergencies please immediately contact 000.