During the Christmas and New Year period there is an increase in festivities, parties, family gatherings, work functions and barbeques. While it's a great time of year, it can also be a time of excess, especially when it comes to alcohol.
The festive season is a good time to reflect on our drinking culture and the way we drink.
Research tells us that even when people intend to drink responsibly, it can be difficult to stick to this plan because getting drunk is often an accepted norm, there is often social pressure to drink and the setting makes it easy to drink large amounts.
One of the most important ways to create a less harmful drinking culture is to change the acceptance of drunkenness, and the problems that go with it.
To start changing the drinking culture and to help you to look after yourself, your friends and family, here are some tips to implement during the festive season and throughout the year.
Not everyone chooses to drink alcohol. But if you do drink, to stay at low risk of harm, health experts recommend:
Transport and safety:
Good parties don't just happen; they are a result of good planning and preparation. If you are hosting a party, remember you have a duty-of-care for the safety and wellbeing of your guests.
You and your guests can have a great time if you take responsibility for the way alcohol is made available and create a low risk environment for your guests. Some things to consider when planning your party can include (but are not limited to):
Helping guests to space their drinks:
Alcohol does not have an adverse effect on your body unless you get really drunk.
There are a broad range of short and long-term harms associated with regular alcohol use. Even if you aren't drinking at levels that lead to drunkenness, regular drinking can cause a range of health, social and economic problems. For example even 2-3 glasses of alcohol a night, which may not seem a lot for some people, increases your risk of developing some cancers by 131%.1
If someone is very drunk or passes out after drinking, it's best to let them sleep it off.
While it might seem like a good idea, letting someone ‘sleep it off' can be dangerous. As alcohol is a depressant which affects the central nervous system, there's a possibility that a person won't wake up if they vomit and they could choke. If someone becomes unwell or passes out it is very important to treat it as an emergency and call for help and stay with the person.
Alcohol is a great way to relax and reduce stress.
The problem with using alcohol to relax and reduce stress is that it can lead to other health issues or make existing problems worse. It is important for those that choose to drink alcohol to stick within the recommended drinking guidelines.
Eating a big meal before you drink will keep you sober.
Once consumed, alcohol will be digested and enter the blood system. The presence of food in the stomach and digestive tract can slow down the alcohol's absorption but won't stop it. The only sure way is to not drink it in the first place. It's best for healthy adults to have no more than two standards drinks on any day or no more than four drinks on any one occasion.
Cold showers, fresh air or hot coffee help sober a person.
The only way to sober up after drinking is to give your body time to process the alcohol out of your system. Fresh air and hot coffee might make you feel better but won't get rid of the alcohol in your system, and having a shower when you're affected by alcohol can be dangerous if you lose your balance or fall asleep.
If I let my teenager have the occasional drink with the family at home they will learn to drink alcohol responsibly and they will be less likely to sneak out and try drinking with friends.
Research shows that when young people are introduced to alcohol at an earlier age, they tend to drink more, and are more likely to develop harmful drinking patterns. While traditionally, having alcohol available at home has been considered to positively role model drinking behaviour to young people, research now shows that the opposite is the more likely the case. Introducing children to alcohol at an earlier age is likely to support the idea that alcohol is not a harmful product.
1Zhao, J & Stockwell, T. 2013, Australian relative-risk estimates. University of Victoria Centre for Addictions Research of British Columbia for the WA Drug and Alcohol Office.
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