Learn the Legal Drinking Limits

What is the standard drink?

For regular as well as occasional drinkers it is a good idea to know exactly what the law says about alcohol, including what constitutes a standard drink according to government standards. Drinks limits in Oz are based on these standards, which is why it is important to know what the legal limits are.

The act of counting glasses or containers is not an accurate way of keeping track of your consumption. It is far better and more reliable to know how many standard drinks you consume because alcohol content varies from drink to drink, so pin pointing exactly how much you consume can be problematic unless you know how to measure a standard drink.

The Australian definition of a standard drink is a measurement used to describe the amount of alcohol contained in a drink (in Oz it is 10grams of alcohol).  A standard drink always contains the same amount of alcohol regardless of the size of the container or type of drink (for example a bottle of cider and can of beer). The number of standard drinks in alcohol beverages is always displayed on the label of the bottle or can according to Australian law,

Part of alcohol servers’ responsibility includes providing patrons with this information if it is requested and the label is not present. Servers should know the alcohol contained in glass, jug or container with no labels that they serve.

The Formula for calculating Standard Drinks is useful for drinkers and servers and is calculated as follows:

Multiply the volume of the container in litres by the alcohol volume and multiply that by 0.789. The specific gravity of ethyl alcohol is 0.789.

Volume of container in litres X  % alcohol by volume (ml/100ml)  X 0.789*

=number of standard drinks

For example 1 bottle (375ml) of full strength beer of 5% alcohol by volume is calculated as follows:

0.375  X  5 X  0.789*

=  1.5

But you may be saying, calculating is easy but keeping track is hard especially when you’re drinking, it can be hard to remember how many drinks you’re consuming. A possible solution for this may be to put the bottle’s cap in your pocket each time you open the drink, this will allow you to keep track of each bottle. Calculate the standard drink in the bottle and then multiply it by the number of caps in your pocket.

It is useful to count drinks, using standard drinks, to ensure that the low risk levels set out in the Australian Alcohol Guidelines are not exceeded. The low risk levels are the number of standard drinks that can be drunk before the threat to a person’s health and social well-being moves up into the ‘risky’ or ‘high risk’ category.

Ideally each person should stick to their limit, because alcohol affects each of us differently, everyone will have their own limits. The measurement of alcohol in a person’s blood is known as Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). This can be used as a guide to determine the effects alcohol may have on a person’s behaviour.

Truthfully more than 2 standard drinks per night isnot recommended but men and women’s tolerance to alcohol differs. The reason why alcohol consumption is important and needs to be monitored is because of the effects that alcohol has on the brain, causing people to behave in ways that they wouldn’t ordinarily and perhaps place their lives in danger or the endanger the lives of others. Surprising to most drinkers, alcohol starts to affect the brain within five minutes of consumption. A person’s Blood alcohol level peaks about 30-45 minutes after one standard drink is consumed and rapid consumption of multiple drinks results in higher BAC because the average body can only break down one standard drink every hour.

Factors such as weight, gender, age, body chemistry, food intake, drinking experience, mental health and physical health all affect how alcohol affects a person and how fast.

Drinking in moderation is really the only way to drink responsibly and can relax a person, while being beneficial to their health as well. But excessive consumption can lead to many negative consequences such as brawls, assaults, car crashes etc. People need to be aware of their limits and servers of alcohol need to know when to refuse alcohol to a patron in order to avoid many of the woes of excessive drinking on society.