Alcohol - keeping some perspective

For most adults, drinking a small amount of alcohol is not harmful. 

However, health, personal and social issues can arise when consuming excessive alcohol on any one occasion. [1]

The misuse of alcohol can increase stress within a family, conflict around household roles and responsibilities, and potential for family violence. [2] Financial issues can also arise from alcohol abuse including loss of income and difficulties in prioritising budgeting and spending.

Where to get help

Phone: 1800 888 236
Confidential alcohol and drug counselling or referral in Victoria. Open 24 hours, every day of the year.

For more information

Alcohol and Drug Foundation
Phone: 1300 858 584
Australia's leading organisation committed to preventing and minimising the harm caused by alcohol and other drugs.

Phone: 1800 650 890
Information about mental health, physical health, alcohol and other drugs for young people (12-25 years) and their carers. Online and telephone counselling is also available from 9:00am to 1:00am, every day of the year.

In an emergency, always call 000.

Alcohol guidelines

In Australia, alcohol is the most widely used drug. It’s a depressant, which can slow down the brain and nervous system.

  • The legal drinking age in Victoria is 18 years old.
  • Children under 15 years old are at the greatest risk of alcohol associated harm. The safest option is to not consume any alcohol. Young people aged between 15 and 17 years should consider delaying initiation to alcohol for as long as possible.
  • Women who are planning to or are pregnant, and for those who are breastfeeding, not drinking any alcohol is the safest option.

What is a standard drink?

In order to reduce the lifetime risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury for most healthy women and men, the National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines advise the following:

  • drink no more than 2 standard drinks on any day, and
  • drink no more than 4 standard drinks on a single occasion. [3]

Standard drinks

  • Full-strength beer: 285 millilitres (4.6 percent alcohol to volume)
  • Mid-strength beer: 375 millilitres (3.5 percent alcohol to volume)
  • Light beer: 425 millilitres (2.7 percent alcohol to volume)
  • Wine - red, white, rosé, sparkling: 100 millilitres (12.6 percent alcohol to volume)
  • Spirits: 30 millilitres (40 percent alcohol to volume) [4]

Test your knowledge

Test your knowledge, learn more about standard drinks and assess your drinking habits on the Your Room website.

Effects of alcohol on your health

Immediate and short-term effects of alcohol

Under the influence of alcohol messages between your brain and your body slows down, and can result in:

  • saying or doing things you wouldn’t normally
  • feeling off balance or dizzy
  • slurring words when speaking
  • blurred vision or trouble seeing
  • poor coordination
  • slow reactions
  • feeling angry or sad more easily
  • vomiting or feeling unwell

Short-term effects of drinking excessively include headaches, tiredness, dry mouth, trouble concentrating, blackouts or passing out, and alcohol poisoning. It can also result in accidents such as car crashes, falls or drowning. The misuse of alcohol is a key contributing factor in assaults and other violent crimes. [5]

Long-term effects of alcohol

Mental health

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Dependence


  • Memory loss/confusion
  • Brain damage


  • Heart and blood disorders
  • Anaemia
  • Increased risk of stroke
  • Increased risk of heart attack
  • Weakness/loss of muscle mass
  • Type 2 Diabetes


  • Cirrhosis
  • Hepatitis
  • Liver failure


  • Bleeding
  • Inflamed lining
  • Diarrhoea

Other effects

  • Poor diet
  • Frequent infections
  • Skin problems
  • Damage to reproductive organs
  • Cancer (including mouth, liver and breast) [5]

[1] Your Room. (2020) Alcohol (accessed on 4 May 2020).

[2] Relationships Australia. (2018) October 2018: Alcohol use and relationships (accessed on 4 May 2020).

[3] NHMRC. (2009) Australian Guidelines – To reduce health risks from drinking alcohol. Canberra, Australian Government.

[4] Department of Health. (2019) Standard drinks guide (accessed on 4 May 2020).

[5] NSW Ministry of Health. (2014) Alcohol: the facts. Sydney, NSW Government.

Page last updated: Tuesday, 19 April 2022