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Alcohol intake guidelines

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

When not to drink alcohol

It's advisable not to drink if you:

  • are pregnant or planning to get pregnant
  • are on medication that interacts with alcohol
  • have a condition made worse by drinking alcohol
  • feel unwell, depressed, tired or cold as alcohol could make things worse
  • are about to operate machinery or a vehicle, or do anything that is risky or requires skill.

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

There is no known safe level of alcohol use at any stage of pregnancy.

Cut down or stop

Some people who drink too much may be able to simply cut down – this is called drinking in moderation. If you try and find it hard to stop once you start drinking, you should try to quit drinking completely.

Just like smoking, alcohol can cause physical dependence or addiction and some people cannot cut down. If this is you, then you need to abstain or quit drinking completely before it ruins your life.

How to cut back

Making the decision to cut down on your drinking is mainly about recognising how you or others feel about your drinking. Some things might have started to happen because of your drinking and you want to make a change, or your friends or family might have suggested it's time to look at the way you drink.

The first step is recognising when your drinking could be causing you harm or affecting your life (relationships, work, personality, etc). To make a real change to the way you drink:

  • record your drinking – keep a diary of when, where and how much you are drinking
  • identify your trouble-spots – refer to your drinking diary to identify any patterns to your drinking that you should avoid
  • plan how to deal with them.

If you think you have an addiction or problem with your drinking, seek help from someone you trust or call a crisis line.

Learn to handle stress

  • find ways to handle stress that don’t involve alcohol (e.g., going to the gym, walking the dog, talking to a friend, relaxation techniques)
  • plan ahead for social situations where you might be tempted to drink
  • learn about problem drinking and addiction.
  • seek out a support person who will listen, motivate you, and help keep you safe.

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