This July go Dry and abstain from alcohol
In support of Dry July, Rural Doctors Foundation encourages abstaining from alcohol for the entire month. It may be the start of better health and a healthier bank balance.
There are also many more benefits for you in reducing your alcohol intake.
What is alcohol?
Alcohol is a drug classified as a ‘depressant’. This means when you are under the influence of alcohol it takes longer for your brain to communicate with the rest of your body. Alcohol is created through a fermentation process, and each alcoholic drink contains different amounts of alcohol.
What does alcohol do to you?
Individual effects of alcohol depend on a variety of factors including your sex, age, and if alcohol is the only drug you are taking.
Depending on the amount you drink effects could include nausea, reduced coordination, lack of inhibition, sleepiness, and memory loss. In the long-term, drinking excessively can cause cardiovascular issues such as high blood pressure and heart attacks, liver cirrhosis and failure, cancers including stomach, liver and bowel cancer, increased risk of diabetes, substance abuse and mental health issues.
In 2018, alcohol was the fifth highest risk factor contributing to the burden on disease in Australia (https://www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/8b07633c-2294-4025-bb22-23e78b96319e/PHE221-Factsheets-Alcohol-26042023.pdf.aspx)
In 2021, there were approximately 1600 alcohol-induced deaths recorded. (https://www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/8b07633c-2294-4025-bb22-23e78b96319e/PHE221-Factsheets-Alcohol-26042023.pdf.aspx).
There is also a financial aspect to factor in, with the average Australian house spending $32 each week on alcohol.
Despite these effects, the proportion of the Australian population who approved the consumption of alcohol was higher than those who disapproved of its use. This is the only drug that had a higher rate of approval.
Drinking trends across Australia also vary across cities and rural communities, with those in rural or remote locals being both more likely to drink on a daily basis and drink at a level that puts them more at risk of long term harm. The burden of disease caused by drinking alcohol is also 2.1x higher for those in remote locations vs major cities. (https://www.aihw.gov.au/news-media/media-releases/2019/march/alcohol-and-other-drug-use-regional-and-remote)
What is a safe amount to drink?
Alcoholic beverages in Australia have labels indicating the level of pure alcohol. Sometimes this may be written in grams, or ‘standard drinks’. 1 standard drink is equal to 10g of alcohol, which is the amount an average and healthy adult will clear from their blood in 1 hour. If you are at a restaurant or a bar you can ask staff how many standard drinks is contained in your serving, or you can use an online calculator such as this one by NSW Health (https://yourroom.health.nsw.gov.au/games-and-tools/pages/standard-drink-calculator.aspx)
It is important to remember that some drinks are stronger than others, so the same amount of beverage can contain more or less than one standard drink. Even with the same type of beverage, e.g. beers, there are different strengths (and percentages of alcohol).
According to the Australian Guidelines, the weekly adult intake of alcohol should not exceed 10 std drinks, and daily intake of alcohol should not exceed 4 standard drinks. In 2020 – 2021, 25% of Australian adults exceeded this alcohol guideline (https://www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/8b07633c-2294-4025-bb22-23e78b96319e/PHE221-Factsheets-Alcohol-26042023.pdf.aspx)
Children under 18, and pregnant women should not drink alcohol. If breastfeeding, abstaining from alcohol is the safest for your baby.
ReachOut has information about signs of alcohol addiction to look out for:
- Needing an increased amount of alcohol than before in order to feel its effects
- Wanting to have a drink the first thing in the morning
- Hiding your drinking or regularly drinking on your own
- Disagreements with your family and friends regarding your drink
- Worrying about your next drink
- Sweating, nausea or insomnia when you don’t drink
If you are worried about your relationship with alcohol, make an appointment to see your local GP.
Some tips from the Australian Guidelines to reduce risk to your health from drinking alcohol include:
- Eating food whilst drinking alcohol
- Following up each alcoholic drink with a non-alcoholic drink
- Setting alcohol limits
- Checking the amount of standard drinks in your beverage
- Drinking water if you are thirsty and
- Avoiding using alcohol to combat stress, anxiety or poor sleep.
See your rural GP to develop sustainable approaches to manage your alcohol consumption if you feel it is becoming an issue.
Want to take the next step and reduce your alcohol intake?
See your rural GP for medical advice and support services available to help you reduce your alcohol intake. Cutting down your alcohol intake by yourself can be dangerous if you are a regular or heavy drinker so, please seek medical advice. Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include nausea and vomiting, anxiety, sweating, headache, confusion and seizures so if you are a heavy drinker, reducing your alcohol intake is best done under the advice and monitoring of your rural health practitioner.