Binge drinking


Alcohol is the most widely used recreational drug in Australia. Because of its popularity, people don't tend to think of it as a drug, or even realise that it can be harmful. But alcohol is the largest cause of drug-related deaths among Australian teenagers.

Topics on this page include:

> What is binge drinking?
> The risks
> How much is too much? 
> Staying in control
> Links to more information

What is binge drinking?

The term "binge drinking" can mean different things to different people, but some common definitions are:

  • Drinking so that you can deliberately get drunk
  • Occasional and irregular bouts of heavy drinking
  • Normally being a responsible drinker, but often overindulging

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Binge drinking: The risks

Regularly drinking large amounts of alcohol can damage your body, social life and relationships. And if you're under 18, the health risks are even more serious.

Some of the risks involved with binge drinking include:

  • Having accidents
  • Getting into fights or arguments
  • Missing work
  • Feeling depressed
  • Passing out
  • Loss of valuable and personal items like wallets, jewellery, phones and iPods
  • Having unsafe sex 

Some of the long-term risks of binge drinking include:

  • Liver damage
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Sexual problems
  • Weight problems
  • Depression

Becoming addicted

One of the most serious long-term risks of binge drinking is becoming dependent on alcohol, both physically and psychologically.

When this happens you feel as though your body can't function without alcohol. Drinking can become more important than anything else in your life. This is what is known as alcohol dependency or alcoholism.

If you or someone you know is addicted to alcohol you can get help through Directline (new window) or Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) (new window).

For more information on where you can get help, check out our Alcohol page.

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How much is too much?

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) defines a "standard drink" as a drink that contains 10 grams of pure alcohol. Some examples of drinks that have this much alcohol in them include:

  • One pot (285ml) of full-strength beer
  • Three-quarters of a 375ml stubby of full-strength beer
  • One shot (30ml) of straight spirits
  • One small glass of table wine (100ml)
  • Three-quarters (330ml) of a bottle of alcoholic soda (alcopop)

This is just a guide. It's important to remember that some venues put more alcohol in their mixed drinks.

Also, a big glass of wine is closer to two standard drinks, and drinks served at home generally have more alcohol in them. Some cocktails have more than one shot of alcohol in them too.

In terms of "how much is too much?", the NHMRC says that:

  • For males, drinking more than 7-10 standard drinks on any one day is risky
  • For females, drinking more than 5-6 standard drinks on any one day is risky

These guidelines are based on an average weight of around 60kg for males and 50kg for females. A person with smaller than average body weight or size should drink less than an average-sized person.

For more information about standard drinks, check out Say When (new window) for lots of simple tools for staying in control of your drinking, including

  • A drink check chart
  • A drink calculator
  • Tools to create and monitor your own drinking profile

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Staying in control

If you choose to drink, here are some ways to avoid bingeing and getting out of control:

  • Set yourself a limit on how much you will drink and stick to it
  • Have something to eat before you go out
  • Don't drink too fast - sip, don't gulp
  • Have one drink at a time
  • Have a "spacer" between each alcoholic drink - something nonalcoholic like soft drink or even a glass of water
  • Don't drink alone - stay with your friends and look after each other
  • Stay active - do something else besides drinking (e.g. dancing, talking with mates, going for a walk, playing games, watching DVDs)
  • Don't accept drinks from people you don't know
  • Make sure you have at least two alcohol-free days every week
  • Avoid drinking cocktails if you're not sure how much or what kinds of alcohol are in them
  • Remember that alcopops might not taste like alcohol, but they are, and they still have the same effect as any other alcoholic drink
  • Think about the "cringe factor" - will you be embarrassed tomorrow by what you do tonight?

Drinking responsibly doesn't mean you have to give up drinking. It just means being aware of the risks and making decisions to keep you happy and healthy.

Hello Sunday Morning (new window) is a movement towards a better drinking culture that encourages people to manage their own drinking. You can start managing your drinking by taking their drinking quiz or downloading their app. 

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Hello Sunday Morning
HSM is a movement towards a better drinking culture. Start your journey by doing their drinking quiz or downloading their app.

Say When
Say When has lots of advice and some simple tools for staying in control of your drinking

Better Health Channel - Alcohol
Information about alcohol consumption and how the body processes it.

Salvation Army - Addiction Services
Information and treatment options for all alcohol, gambling or drugs addiction.

Reach Out! - All About binge drinking
An overview of the problem of binge drinking for young people.

DrugInfo: Alcohol
A program of the Australian Drug Foundation that provides easy access to info about alcohol and other drugs.

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