Lots of us drink socially, but how can you tell if your drinking is becoming a problem? Here’s an overview of the key warning signs and where to get support if you feel you may need help.
The first step towards addressing problem drinking is accepting your drinking is becoming a problem. If you’re worried about your alcohol intake, it’s important to be aware of the warning signs and know when to get help.
Understanding the daily recommended amount
In Australia, guidelines exist to help you understand the safe limit of alcohol. While health professionals agree that alcohol is never completely safe, there are limitations that can help you to drink responsibly.
The guidelines provide advice on the safe amount of alcohol to drink as well as the health effects of drinking alcohol. Here’s what they advise:
- Healthy men and women: To reduce the risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury for healthy men and women, drink no more than 10 standard drinks per week and no more than 4 standard drinks on any one day.
- Children and young people: To reduce the risk of injury and other harms to health, children and young people under 18 years of age should not drink alcohol.
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding: To reduce the risk of harm to their unborn child, women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy should not drink alcohol. For women who are breastfeeding, not drinking alcohol is safest.
The guidelines also state that: “The less you choose to drink, the lower your risk of alcohol-related harm. For some people not drinking at all is the safest option.”
Visit the National Health and Medical Research Council website for the most up to date guidelines.
“The less you choose to drink, the lower your risk of alcohol-related harm. For some people not drinking at all is the safest option.”
Some people who drink have a greater risk of health issues, such as pregnant women and people with certain medical conditions. It’s best to discuss your alcohol intake and risk factors with your healthcare professional.
Signs your drinking is becoming a problem
Asking yourself if you drink too much is one of the first signs that your drinking is becoming a problem. If you’re questioning your alcohol intake, there is probably an issue you need to address.
Other common signs your drinking is becoming a problem include:
- Exceeding the daily recommended amount
- Drinking more than you intended
- Struggling to have alcohol-free days
- Feeling frustrated or angry when you don’t drink
- Feeling guilty or ashamed about the amount you drink
- Lying about how much you drink
- Hiding the amount of alcohol you drink
- Drinking to ‘self-medicate’, relax or feel better
- Forgetting what you did when you were drinking.
Other signs that your drinking is problematic can include:
- Choosing alcohol over your relationships and responsibilities – neglecting your relationships, repeatedly calling in sick to work
- Drinking in dangerous situations – drinking and driving, drinking while on medication
- Getting into legal trouble because of your drinking – getting arrested, getting into fights.
Risks and harms of alcohol
Drinking too much is harmful to your health. While you may think hangovers are no big deal, it’s not just morning-after headaches and tiredness you have to worry about. Excessive drinking can;
- Increases your risk of serious health issues – there are many health conditions linked with alcohol intake, like obesity, heart disease, liver disease and some cancers.
- Harms your relationships – drinking too much puts a strain on your relationships with your partner, children, family members and friends.
- Affects your job prospects – performing poorly at work because you drink too much can put you at risk of losing both your job and the respect of your colleagues.
- Impacts your mental health – alcohol intake can increase the risk of mental health issues.
- Affects your behaviour – you may do or say things you regret when you sober up, leading to feelings of guilt, shame and embarrassment.
Where to get help
If you are concerned that your drinking is becoming a problem, there is help available. Reaching out and sharing your feelings with others is important. Talk to your partner, family members or friends. Make an appointment with your healthcare professional and ask for a referral for a specialist who can help with alcohol-related issues.
You may also find that you need to distance yourself from people who drink or situations where you’re tempted to drink.
Your health professional can give you effective strategies for cutting back or stopping altogether.
If you’re struggling, our SuicideLine Victoria counsellors are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Call us on 1300 651 251 or access free video and online counselling.
If it is an emergency, please call 000.