I think I drink too much alcohol - what do I do?
Wednesday 20 May 2020
Have you ever found yourself wondering if you drink too much alcohol? Or questioning how to know if you are drinking too much or too often? Or, are you concerned about a family member or friend and how much they drink?
Whether you drink alcohol daily, weekly, or have a few beverages once every month or so, it’s important to be aware of how much you’re drinking, why you’re drinking and whether alcohol is affecting your health and wellbeing. We spoke with Dr Hollie Wilson, Allied Health Manager at Adis, a 24/7 alcohol and drug support service for Queenslanders, about how you can understand your relationship with alcohol, and where to get help if you think you need it.
How much alcohol can I drink?
There’s no one amount of alcohol that’s safe for everyone to drink, because alcohol affects everyone in different ways. It’s important to know that drinking alcohol is never completely safe. The less alcohol you choose to drink, the lower the risk to your health.
The Australian Government has recently published new guidelines on how much alcohol you can consume to reduce your health risks:
- To reduce the risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury, healthy men and women should drink no more than 10 standard drinks a week and no more than 4 standard drinks on any one day. The less you drink, the lower your risk of harm from alcohol.
- To reduce the risk of injury and other harms to health, children and people under 18 years of age should not drink alcohol.
- To prevent harm from alcohol 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 for their babies.
Queenslanders can also take a Self-Assessment Quiz on the Adis website to help them figure out how much they’re drinking and how they are affected by their alcohol intake. After the quiz, they have the option of using Adis’s support services if they want help managing their relationship with alcohol. If you’re not sure how many standard drinks you are consuming, you can estimate how much you might be pouring or try an alcohol intake calculator.
Dr Wilson says that when it comes to concerns about drinking levels, it’s not just about the number of drinks a person is having, but how alcohol is affecting their behaviour and lifestyle. “For some people, it might have escalated to a point where it’s affecting their functioning or things in their life,” she says. “Often people call Adis and they’re just wanting to know whether their use might be problematic.”
This is where the services of Adis can be really useful. Rather than just counting numbers of drinks, Dr Wilson says the counsellors on the Adis hotline speak to callers about how alcohol plays a role in their life more broadly, to help them figure out if they want to change and what their goals might be.
“We want to assess that a little more,” says Dr Wilson. “We talk about what circumstances or situations they might be using alcohol in, and really get the whole picture. Once you’ve got that holistic picture of somebody, you can see ways to help them meet their goals, whether that’s reducing the harms of alcohol, reducing their use or stopping altogether.”
I’m worried that I drink too much alcohol or drink too often – what should I do?
Even if you’re drinking in line with or less than the guidelines above, you still might want to cut back for reasons that are important for you. Some reasons Adis recommend you might contact their services include:
- You’ve tried to change but it’s been difficult
- It’s causing issues with your relationships
- You regret things you’ve said or done
- You’re not feeling physically or mentally healthy.
You can call Adis on 1800 177 833, 24 hours, every day of the week. You can also request an Adis counsellor calls you back at a time that suits you using their online call back form. All calls with Adis are anonymous and confidential.
If speaking on the phone isn’t for you, you can also access online counselling.
If you’re worried about whether you should be accessing the services Adis offers, Dr Wilson says that it’s important to know that Queenslanders with all different types of concerns get in touch to talk to the Adis counsellors about what’s going on for them. The service receives over 2,000 inbound calls a month, from Queenslanders from all walks of life.
“We receive calls from young people right up to quite elderly people,” she says. “We talk to all different sorts of people with different concerns. It’s never too late or too early to give us a call.”
I’m worried about someone else’s relationship with alcohol – what should I do?
Adis also provides support to people who are concerned about a family member or friend. Dr Wilson says that one in three calls through to Adis come from people who are concerned about someone close to them.
“These callers might be concerned about a loved one and how they’re acting a little bit differently or they're using a little bit more than they would normally do,” says Dr Wilson. “These calls actually tend to be the lengthier calls, because we are going through with the caller how to best support that person, but then how to take care of themselves in that process.”
“Some family members may have even experienced violence or aggression in their homes and are hesitant to talk to anyone due to stigmatisation around substance use. Adis provides an opportunity to talk to a non-judgemental counsellor anonymously, who can provide support and strategies to manage any risks in their home”.
If you’re concerned about someone else’s drinking, the Adis phone line or the online counselling service can help you decide what you can do to help that person. Counsellors can also support you to make sure you are safe and able you look after yourself during the process.
I’m drinking more during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic – can Adis help me?
If you’ve noticed that you’re drinking more than usual this year during the coronavirus (COVID-19) response, or found that the time at home has given you space to think about how you use alcohol, Dr Wilson says you’re not alone.
“We're getting more calls at this time,” says Dr Wilson. “In particular around people being in their homes and not readily being able to go out and use some of the strategies that they might have normally done to manage alcohol use. I think that has made it difficult for people, not having protective factors like work and being able to see family members and friends face-to-face for support.”
If you’ve noticed your use of alcohol has changed or you have any other concerns, the Adis services are here for you during this time.
Phone: 1800 177 833 for free, anonymous counselling, 24 hours a day 7 days a week