Alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk of injury, chronic disease and early death.1 In Australia, one person dies every 90 minutes from an alcohol-caused disease or injury.23
Alcohol consumption has been linked to a number of short and long-term adverse health outcomes, including:
Alcohol has been ranked the drug that causes the most overall harm in Australia when considering both the harm to those who use alcohol and harm to others.12
In 2009, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) released the Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol.*
The Guidelines can help you make informed decisions about the amount of alcohol you drink by describing how alcohol can increase your risk of injury, disease and death in both the short and long-term. The Guidelines also provide guidance for women who are pregnant and breastfeeding, and those aged under 18.13
Short-term harm is what may occur as a result of one (single) drinking occasion.
The Guidelines make four recommendations:13
Guideline 1 - reducing the risk of alcohol-related harm over a lifetime.
Guideline 2 - reducing the risk of injury on a single occasion of drinking.
Guideline 3 - for children and young people under 18 years of age, not drinking is the safest option.
Guideline 4 - pregnancy and breastfeeding.
What is a standard drink?
See our Standard Drink tool to learn what a standard drinks looks like. You can pour your typical drink to see how many standard drinks you are actually consuming in your glass of wine, beer or spirits.
*The NHMRC Guidelines are currently being updated. Until the new Guidelines are released (expected late 2020), these guidelines remain the NHMRC’s current advice.
Page last updated: 22 April 2020
1 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2018a). Alcohol overview. Retrieved from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports-data/behaviours-risk-factors/alcohol/overview
2 National Drug Research Institute. (2018). Media release: Alcohol causes nearly 6,000 Australian deaths in one year, a third from cancer. Retrieved from: http://ndri.curtin.edu.au/news-events/ndri-news/media-release-alcohol-causes-nearly-6,000-australi
3 National Health and Medical Research Council. (2009). Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol. Commonwealth of Australia: Canberra, ACT.
4 Pandeya, N., Wilson, L., Webb, P., Neale, R., Bain, C., & Whiteman, D. (2015). Cancers in Australia in 2010 attributable to the consumption of alcohol. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 39(5), 408-413.
5 Buckman, F., Eddie, D., Vaschillo, E., Vaschillo, B., Garcia, A., & Bates, M. E. (2015). Immediate and complex cardiovascular adaptation to an acute alcohol dose. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 39(12), 2334-2344.
6 Piano, M. (2017). Alcohol’s effect on the cardiovascular system. Alcohol Research, 38(2), 219-241.
7 Duggan, A., & Duggan, J. (2011). Alcoholic liver disease: Assessment and management. Australian Family Physician, 40(8), 591-593.
8 World Health Organization. (2018b). Global status report on alcohol and health 2018. Geneva: WHO.
9 Griswold, M., et al. (2018). Alcohol use and burden for 195 countries and territories,1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016. The Lancet, 392, 1015-35.
10 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2018b). Family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia. Cat no. FDV 2. Canberra: AIHW
11 Fitzpatrick, J., Elliot, E., Latimer, J., Carter, M., Oscar, J., Ferreira, M., … & Hand, M. (2012). The Liliwan Project: study protocol for a population-based active case ascertainment study of the prevalence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) in remote Australian Aboriginal communities. BMJ Open, 2, 1-11.
12 Bonomo, Y., Norman, A., Biondo, S., Bruno, R., Daglish, M., Dawe, S., Egerton-Warburton, D., Karro, J., … & Castle, D. (2019). The Australian drug harms ranking study. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 33(7), 759-768.
13 National Health and Medical Research Council. (2009). Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol. Commonwealth of Australia: Canberra, ACT.
Alcohol and Drug Support Line
The Alcohol and Drug Support Line is a confidential, non-judgmental telephone counselling, information and referral service for anyone seeking help for their own or another person’s alcohol or drug use.
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