Are you considering FebFast? Considering cutting down on your alcohol consumption?
Here is what you need to know.
How alcohol works
It doesn’t matter what type of alcohol you drink – or even whether you mix drinks – the effects are basically the same with the same amount of alcohol.
Alcohol’s effects include reducing activity in the part of the brain that regulates thinking, reasoning and decision-making, known as the prefrontal cortex. Alcohol also decreases inhibitions and our ability to regulate emotions
When you drink alcohol it goes into the stomach and passes into the small intestine where it’s quickly absorbed into the bloodstream.
If you have eaten something, it slows the absorption of alcohol so you don’t get drunk so quickly. That’s why it’s a good idea to eat before and during drinking.
It takes your body about an hour to metabolise 10g, or one standard drink, of alcohol. However, everybody breaks down alcohol at a different rate, so this is just a rough estimate.
Australians love their alcohol, exceeding many other countries in terms of consumption. However, very few people understand the negative health effects of regular alcohol consumption.
Recent research has shown there is a clear link between drinking alcohol and a number of health conditions. These include at least seven cancers (liver, oral cavity, pharyngeal, laryngeal, oesophageal, colorectal, liver and breast cancer in women); diabetes; liver disease; brain impairment; mental health problems; and being overweight or obese.
Some previous research suggested low levels of alcohol might be good for you, but we now know these studies were flawed. Better quality studies have found alcohol does not offer health benefits.
Binge drinking, where a large amount of alcohol is consumed in one session, can also cause immediate harms including accidental injury, ‘blackouts‘ and in some cases death.
For some people, alcohol consumption can also impact their mental health provoking periods of depression or anxiety.
No level of alcohol consumption is ‘safe’, but reducing how often and the amount you drink can reduce the risk of harm.
New draft alcohol guidelines recommend healthy Australian women and men drink no more than ten standard drinks a week and no more than four on any one day to reduce their risk of health problems.
The guidelines also note that for some people – including teens and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding – not drinking is the safest option.
Signs you may need to cut back
- drinking every day or nearly every day? Daily drinking is associated with dependence
- drinking more than the recommended limits? Drinking more than two drinks on any day is associated with long-term health problems
- needing to drink more to get the same effect? This indicates growing tolerance to alcohol and is an early sign of dependence
- having difficulty taking a break or cutting back, or drinking more than you intended to? These are signs that you have less control over how much you drink
- finding that drinking is interfering with day-to-day activities on a regular basis, for example being late for work because you have a hangover?
- noticing your well-being is affected, for example, you get feelings of anxiety or depression during or after drinking, or you have trouble sleeping? Alcohol can be relaxing while you are drinking, but it can make anxiety, depression and sleep problems worse
- doing things while you are drinking that you later regret?
If so, it’s time to reassess your drinking. This online assessment tool may help.