Sunday, 29 November 2015

What is a safe level of alcohol? NHMRC: no more than 2 standard drinks per day.

The other day in the lead up to White Ribbon Day when I was in Sydney, I was accosted by a complete stranger who told me that the reason why we had domestic violence in Australia was because of the big breweries. His theory, he told me, was that we had to bring those brewers to account in order to bring domestic violence to an end.

Regrettably I had little time with this gentleman, as I was due to meet a colleague, but he is wrong. Alcohol is not the cause of domestic violence- but it is a depressant, and a disinhibitor- so that someone who is drunk might behave in a manner that someone sober did not. The reality about domestic violence is that it classically involves power and control- so that one of the parties, typically the man controls the other by the use of whatever power and tools come to hand, whether they be psychological, physical, sexual, social, monetary or otherwise.



However, the statements by the stranger  made me think - what is a safe level of alcohol?
The levels now are a lot lower than we used to think were safe. In 2001, the National Health and Medical Research Council said that men should have no more than 4 (and women 2) standard drinks per day, 5 days per week.


Minimising risk in the longer term
    Males
up to 4 standard drinks
5–6 standard drinks
7 or more standard drinks
    Females
up to 2 standard drinks
3–4 standard drinks
5 or more standard drinks
Minimising risk in the short term
    Males
up to 6 standard drinks
7–10 standard drinks
11 or more standard drinks
    Females
up to 4 standard drinks
5–6 standard drinks
7 or more standard drinks


Then in 2009, the NHMRC said the rate was a lot lower. It issues new guidelines, setting the rate at 2 drinks per adult per day.

Guideline 1: reducing the risk of alcohol-related harm over a lifetime

This guideline advises that the lifetime risk of harm from drinking alcohol increases with the amount consumed. For healthy men and women, 'drinking no more than two standard drinks on any day reduces the lifetime risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury'.
Guideline 2: reducing the risk of injury on a single occasion of drinking

This guideline advises that on a single occasion of drinking the risk of alcohol-related injury increases with the amount consumed. For healthy men and women, 'drinking no more than four standard drinks on a single occasion reduces the risk of alcohol-related injury arising from that occasion'. A single occasion of drinking refers to a person consuming a sequence of drinks without their blood alcohol concentration reaching zero in between.

Guidelines 3 and 4

Guideline 3 relates to consumption of alcohol by children and young people under 18 years of age, while Guideline 4 relates to consumption of alcohol by women who are pregnant, planning a pregnancy or breastfeeding. These guidelines are not considered in this article.

TABLE 2: 2009 NHMRC GUIDELINES(a)

Does not exceed guideline
Exceeds guideline

Guideline 1 - Lifetime risk
up to and including 2 standard drinks
more than 2 standard drinks
Guideline 2 - Single occasion risk
up to and including 4 standard drinks
more than 4 standard drinks

(a) For both males and females.


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