Just under 1 in 6 Australians drink to risky levels

Posted: Jul 05 2021

When you consume drugs and alcohol, it changes the way your brain and body work. For example, it may relax or excite you, or it may affect your sense of time and your emotional state.

Alcohol and some drugs are legal in Australia, but substance abuse is also common. Just under 1 in 6 Australians[1] drink to risky levels, which can lead to injury, violent behaviour, and long-term problems associated with liver function and poor mental health.

Certain mental health conditions (such as anxiety or depression) or emotional states may also see someone turn to drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism to mask or numb uncomfortable feelings.

The Australian guidelines to reduce health risks state that healthy adults, should drink no more than 10 standard drinks per week, and no more than 4 standard drinks on any one day. 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.

Signs and symptoms

Some signs that you or someone you know may be experiencing drug or alcohol abuse include:

  • regularly consuming more than intended
  • trying to reduce your intake, but not succeeding
  • spending a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from drugs or alcohol
  • cravings, or a strong desire to use drugs or alcohol
  • failing to meet responsibilities because of substance use
  • noticing that you have built up a tolerance to the substance, and that you need more of the substance to get the effect you want
  • 'withdrawal' symptoms.

When should I seek support from a professional?

If you are experiencing the above signs and symptoms, speak with your GP.

Treating drug or alcohol abuse early on can offer the most positive outcomes. Depending on the severity of the abuse, treatment may range from counselling, through to hospital treatment. For people who have a substance use disorder and a mental illness, treatment should address both conditions together.

Your General Practitioner can provide more structured advice about how to change your habits, or refer you to a trained professional in this area for assistance. They may also prescribe medication to help you stop drinking alcohol.

Treatment options and strategies

If you want to reduce your drug and alcohol intake there are some practical things you can do to help. These include:

  • keeping a diary of when and how you consume drugs or alcohol
  • avoiding drugs or alcohol when you are feeling down or anxious
  • not keeping drugs or alcohol in the house
  • spending time with friends and family members who do not use drugs and alcohol
  • removing yourself from situations where you know you will take drugs or drink excessively
  • limiting drinking to mealtimes
  • choosing drinks with a low alcohol content, or alternating alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic drinks
  • limiting yourself to one drink per hour
  • letting your friends and family know you are trying to cut down and asking for their support
  • exercising, meditating or doing things you enjoy to tackle stress and anxiety rather than using drugs or alcohol to cope
  • looking after your physical health by eating well, drinking water and exercising regularly.

Support and resources

Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) 1300 222 222 and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) 1300 652 820 are available throughout Australia. They provide a support group for people who have recovered from addiction and can support and mentor others with alcohol or addiction problems.
Counselling OnlineCounselling Online

is a free online text-based service where you can talk to a professional counsellor about your own alcohol and drug use, or that of a loved one.
ReachOutReachOut has a good range of resources addressing the diagnosis of drug and alcohol abuse as well as how you can help a friend with a drug addiction.
Hello Sunday MorningThe Daybreak app by Hello Sunday Morning offers professional and community support online to help you change your relationship with alcohol. It’s sponsored by the Australian Government making it free for Australian residents.

Reviewed by Sarah Davies, registered psychologist.

[1] https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/substance-abuse

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Posted: Jul 05 2021


The information contained here is of a general nature and does not take into account your personal medical situation. The information is not a substitute for independent professional medical advice and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or used for therapeutic purposes. Should you require specific medical information, please seek advice from your healthcare practitioner. Health Partners does not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information provided. While we have prepared the information carefully, we can’t guarantee that it is accurate, complete or up-to-date. And while we may mention goods or services provided by others, we aren’t specifically endorsing them and can’t accept responsibility for them.

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