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Reducing the likelihood of alcohol-related harms

Drinking more alcohol than specified in the Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol, either on a single occasion or over a lifetime, can result in a variety of health harms. 

On a single occasion of drinking, the guidelines recommend no more than four standard drinks be consumed.  Over a lifetime, however, the health risks accumulate with the frequency of drinking occasions. Therefore, the guidelines also recommend consuming no more than two standard drinks per day

For information on the risks of alcohol-related harm over a lifetime, visit the risks of drinking alcohol page.

Reducing the risk of injury on a single occasion of drinking

The most important point to remember is to not drink too much.  The simplest answer to "how much is 'too much'?" is based on the number of standard drinks you consume:

Having four standard drinks doubles your risk of an alcohol-related injury and your risk increases every extra drink you have*.

Four standard drinks doesn't sound like a lot on one occasion, but Australia's leading researchers have assessed the available evidence to confirm that having more than four drinks can put your health and safety at serious risk. Check out the Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol for more information. If four or more standard drinks puts you at real and proven risk of injury, it makes sense that it also puts you and the people around you at major risk of serious legal and social consequences.

To reduce this risk:

Look out for each other:

  • If friends choose not to drink, support them in this decision.
  • If someone is showing worrying side effects, call an ambulance immediately. Dial 000. 
  • To reduce the risk of an unconscious person vomiting and choking to death, turn them on their side in the safety position, make sure their airways are clear, and do not leave them alone.

Plan your night in advance:

  • Plan safe transport. Have a designated driver, keep enough money to pay for a taxi or use public transport.
  • Avoid activities such as swimming when drinking due to risk of drowning.

Follow these simple safer drinking tips:

  • Have a water or soft drink to quench your thirst before you start drinking alcohol. Water is free at places where alcohol is served.
  • Set a limit and count your drinks. Remember, one drink is not always one standard drink (for instance, two stubbies of regular beer is about three standard drinks).
  • Eat before and while you are drinking. Alcohol is absorbed much more slowly when your stomach is full.
  • One drink at a time. Avoid drinking in rounds and topping up drinks, as it becomes difficult to keep track of how much you've had to drink.
  • Pace yourself. Have a non-alcohol drink as a spacer and take sips not gulps.
  • Keep active. Dance, play pool etc - you tend to drink less. Avoid just sitting and drinking. If you are very active, remember to drink lots of water.
  • Try low-alcohol alternatives (for instance, light or mid-strength beer).
  • Don't mix alcohol with drugs. Mixing any combination of prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, illicit drugs and alcohol can be unpredictable and dangerous. Always check the effects of prescription drugs are not interfered with by alcohol.

*Every activity has some level of risk. When alcohol is consumed, that risk is increased.

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