The amount of alcohol you drink and how you drink can increase your risk of serious health, personal and social problems, and affect those around you.

Alcohol is part of many New Zealanders’ lives. There is no amount of alcohol that is considered safe and drinking any alcohol can be potentially harmful.

Alcohol harm

Alcohol harm is driven by both the total volume consumed and by patterns of drinking. Harmful drinking can cause serious health, personal and social problems. Alcohol is one of the main preventable risk factors for a number of diseases, such as cancer, mental health conditions and long-term conditions.

Reducing your risk

To reduce the risk to your health, as well as harm to others, you should limit how much alcohol you drink. For women this is no more than two standard drinks per day (and no more than 10 per week, and have at least two alcohol-free days per week). For men this is no more than three standard drinks per day (and no more than 15 per week and at least two alcohol-free days per week).

For more information, see Low-risk alcohol drinking advice on the Amohia te Waiora website.

Alcohol and pregnancy

There is no known safe level of drinking during pregnancy so health professionals strongly recommend not drinking any alcohol if you’re pregnant, could be pregnant or are planning pregnancy. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can affect your baby and put them at risk of life-long problems, known as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. It can also increase your risk of miscarriage and stillbirth.

Alcohol and driving

Drinking impairs your ability to drive and increases your chance of having an accident and hurting friends, whānau, and others in your community. You also risk fines or license suspension if you are found to be driving under the influence of alcohol. If you plan to drive, it is better not to drink alcohol at all. If you do drink alcohol, arrange alternate transport, such as a taxi or a sober driver.

Alcohol content of a standard drink

The standard drinks measure is a simple way for you to work out how much alcohol you are drinking. It measures the amount of pure alcohol in a drink. One standard drink equals 10 grams of pure alcohol.

What is a standard drink?

  • 330 ml can of beer @ 4% alcohol = 1 standard drink
  • 100 ml glass of table wine @ 12.5% alcohol = 1 standard drink
  • 335 ml bottle of RTD spirits @ 8% alcohol = 2.1 standard drinks
  • 750 ml bottle of wine @ 13% alcohol = 7.7 standard drinks
  • 1000 ml bottle of spirits @ 47% alcohol = 37 standard drinks
  • 3 litre cask of wine @ 12.5% alcohol = 30 standard drinks

Cocktails can contain as much alcohol as 5 or 6 standard drinks, depending on the recipe.

Alcohol intake guidelines

The following guidelines can help you determine if your alcohol intake is harmful.

Adult men and women

Reduce your long-term health risks by drinking no more than:

  • 2 standard drinks a day for women and no more than 10 standard drinks a week
  • 3 standard drinks a day for men and no more than 15 standard drinks a week

and at least 2 alcohol-free days every week.

Reduce your risk of injury on a single occasion of drinking by drinking no more than:

  • 4 standard drinks for women on any single occasion
  • 5 standard drinks for men on any single occasion.

Pregnant women or those planning to get pregnant

  • No alcohol

Health professionals strongly recommend no alcohol use at any stage of pregnancy.

Parents of children and young people under 18 years

The Ministry of Health recommends that children and young people under 18 years do not drink any alcohol. Those under 15 years of age are at the greatest risk of harm from drinking alcohol and not drinking in this age group is especially important.

If 15 to 17 year olds do drink alcohol, they should be supervised, drink infrequently and at levels below and never exceeding the adult daily limits.

The risk of injury and disease increases the more you drink

Any drinking carries a higher risk than not drinking. Mixing alcohol and other drugs – either illegal drugs or some prescription drugs – can cause serious health problems.

Tips for low-risk drinking

if you choose to drink alcohol, there are a number of things you can do to make sure you stay within low-risk levels and don’t get to a stage where you are no longer capable of controlling your drinking.

  • Know what a standard drink is.
  • Keep track of how much you drink – daily and weekly.
  • Set limits for yourself and stick to them.
  • Start with non-alcoholic drinks and alternate with alcoholic drinks.
  • Drink slowly.
  • Try drinks with a lower alcohol content.
  • Eat before or while you are drinking.
  • Never drink and drive.
  • Be a responsible host.
  • Talk to your kids about alcohol.

Alcohol and your kids

The Amohia te Waiora website provides parents and care givers with helpful advice, and includes tips about delaying drinking, being a role model, building and maintaining a good relationship and what to do when things go wrong.

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