Public consultation open: Australian guidelines on alcohol


Silhouetted alcohol bottles

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has released a revised draft of the 'Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol' for public consultation.

The guidelines advise Australians on how to reduce the health risks from drinking alcohol. The NHMRC say the revised draft of the guidelines reflect the best available and most up-to-date evidence on the effects of drinking alcohol.

The revisions come 10 years after the 2009 Guidelines, and have involved three years of research and development, including analysis and systematic reviews of thousands of scientific papers, a public call for evidence and mathematical modelling.

"In 2017 there were more than 4,000 alcohol-related deaths in Australia, and across 2016/17 more than 70,000 hospital admissions. Alcohol is linked to more than 60 medical conditions, particularly numerous cancers. So, we all need to consider the risks when we decide how much to drink," says Professor Anne Kelso, CEO of the National Health and Medical Research Council.

 "We're not telling Australians how much to drink. We're providing advice about the health risks from drinking alcohol so that we can all make informed decisions in our daily lives."

A standard drink contains 10 grams of alcohol, for example: a nip of spirits, a small (100mL) glass of wine, or a midi or pot of beer

What has changed?

The new draft guidelines recommends:

  • Healthy men and women: To reduce the risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury for healthy men and women, 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.

The 2009 guidelines recommended no more than two standard drinks on any day (14 per week) to reduce the lifetime risk of harm from alcohol.

  • Children and young people: To reduce the risk of injury and other harms to health, children and young people under 18 years of age should not drink alcohol.

The 2009 guidelines suggested that the best way to minimise harm from alcohol use was to delay the initiation of drinking for as long as possible for young people aged 15-17 years.

  • Pregnancy and breastfeeding: To reduce the risk of harm 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 baby.

The 2009 guidelines suggested that for women who are pregnant, planning a pregnancy or breastfeeding, not drinking is the safest option. The new recommendations reflect updated evidence from studies on the effects of alcohol on prenatal development.

Public consultation on the draft guidelines finished on 24 February 2020. 

Need help to keep on track?

Drinks Meter is a free app that provides users with confidential, personalised feedback about their alcohol use based on advice from doctors and current Australian guidelines. It has a range of tools to help people track their alcohol intake, set weekly goals to reduce drinking and use an interactive standard drinks pouring tool. Drinks Meter app also provides referrals to NSW based telephone and coaching services.

Get started by downloading the Drinks Meter app through your app store.

For free and confidential advice 24/7 call Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS) on 1800 250 015. Counsellors are available to provide information, referrals, crisis counselling and support. Or start a Web Chat with an ADIS counsellor online Monday to Friday, 8.30am – 5pm.

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