Know the Facts

Helping you make informed decisions about your drinking

Facts Overview

Short-term effects of drinking

Each week about 16% of Australians risk injury from accident or assault because of the amount of alcohol they drink. Every drink you have increases your chances of injuring yourself badly enough to need to go to hospital. These risks don’t just apply to people who go out drinking. You can just as easily injure yourself at home.

(Graph of associated risk when drinking)

Alcohol is absorbed into the blood and acts on your central nervous system to produce a range of effects that make you more likely to hurt yourself somehow. As your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) rises, the more pronounced these effects become. They include:

  • Slowed reaction times
  • Reduced inhibition and increased impulsivity
  • Poor memory
  • Difficulty thinking and concentrating
  • ‘Blackouts’, where you don’t remember what happened
  • Blurred vision
  • Difficulty walking and balancing
  • Mood swings and extreme emotions

These effects limit your ability to perform tasks requiring skill and concentration, such as driving . Mixing alcohol with other drugs and medications can increase these effects, increasing your potential for harm.

Long-term effects of drinking

Regular use of alcohol over time has a toxic effect on the body, leading to a range of negative health and lifestyle consequences . These include:

  • Ongoing cognitive impairments such as poor memory and problem solving
  • Increased risk of heart disease and stroke
  • Increased risk of mouth, throat, oesophageal, bowel, breast, and liver cancer
  • Weakening of muscles and bones
  • Low libido, impotence and infertility
  • Risk of liver disease and damage
  • Diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, such as ulcers and pancreatitis
  • Nutritional deficiencies and weight gain
  • Poor job performance, relationship conflicts and trouble with the law

The long-term impacts of drinking for young people are especially concerning, as human brains continue to mature until 25 years of age. Alcohol use also increases the risk of other mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Problems may become so bad that an alcohol use disorder develops, which may include tolerance to the effects of alcohol and symptoms of withdrawal upon stopping.

Reducing your risk from drinking

To minimise your risk of injury on a single occasion of drinking, it is recommended that you drink no more than four standard drinks on a single occasion.

To minimise your risk of alcohol-related disease or injury over your lifetime, it is recommended that you drink no more than two standard drinks on any day.