Healthy living

Alcohol and your health

It’s important to remember that harmful drinking can occur both in the:

  • short term (drinking too much on one occasion)
  • long term (drinking too much on a regular basis).

In March 2009, the National Health and Medical Research Council released the Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol (external site).

The guidelines focus on health risks accumulating over a lifetime from alcohol use.

The guidelines also establish clear advice on how to minimise the harmful health consequences of alcohol consumption in both the short-term and the long-term.

There is no level of drinking that can be guaranteed to be completely safe.

Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol

Guideline 1

For healthy men and women, drinking no more than 2 standard drinks on any day reduces the lifetime risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury.

Guideline 2

For healthy men and women, drinking no than 4 standard drinks on a single occasion reduces the risk of alcohol-related injury arising from that occasion.

Guideline 3A

Parents and carers should be advised that children under 15 are at the greatest risk of harm from drinking and that for this age group, not drinking alcohol is especially important.

Guideline 3B

For young people 15 to 17, the safest option is to delay the initiation of drinking for as long as possible.

Guideline 4A

For women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, not drinking is the safest option.

Guideline 4B

For women who are breastfeeding, not drinking is the safest option.

Where to get help

  • Call one of the Alcohol and Drug Support Line 24 hour support lines (external site) – providing confidential counselling, information, advice and referral
  • For emergency or life-threatening conditions, visit an emergency department or dial triple zero (000) to call an ambulance – police are not called unless a death has occurred or ambulance officers are threatened
  • See your doctor
  • Visit healthdirect (external site) or call 1800 022 222


This information provided by

Alcohol think again logo


Mental Health Commission

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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