Youth Central journalist Soren Frederiksen asks young people what they think is the limit for safe drinking and comes up with some interesting results. Soren also speaks with Professor Dan Lubman from Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre about what the short-term risks are when young people consume alcohol above safe drinking levels.
 
This is Ben. He's an average Australian. He likes having a beer while watching the footy, he enjoys a few at a BBQ, he and his mates save money by drinking before they go out.

Ben is no exception - Australia is a country of drinkers and for most of us, alcohol doesn’t seem a big problem but a study by Turning Point released in March suggests that we don’t have a clue when it comes to identifying safe drinking levels. 95% of the population don’t know how much is too much so we thought we’d test this knowledge on the streets.

How many drinks do you think is the limit for low risk drinking?

Mmmmm.

Oh. Ah...

It’s four - I think. Is it?

4-6 standard drinks.

Maybe 6.

Probably around 5.

Maybe like 5 or 6.

Ah. 5.

As you can see, perceptions are varied. So rather than talking numbers I’m going to show you what people think.

This is how much the average 14 to 19 year old girl thinks is safe to drink in a single session. What about guys the same age? Well, they think it’s safe to drink this much in a single session.

So that’s the perception, what’s the reality? Well, while they don’t drink this much every day, nearly half of that same group admit to drinking at least this much in a single sitting.

Compare that to this which is what’s actually okay per day and this which is what’s okay on occasion.

We thought we’d ask someone to give us a little bit more information about low risk drinking levels and what excessive drinking is doing to us now so we came to Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre to talk to Professor Dan Lubman.

Dan, thanks for talking to us. I just want to ask you a few questions about alcohol. The longterm effects of alcohol are relatively well known but what are the real short term dangers that we should be worrying about.

I think particularly for young people, it’s the short term harms that are the most significant related to alcohol.

Alcohol basically shuts down the front part of the brain - the part of the brain that’s involved in thinking in terms of judgment and planning.

As the concentration of alcohol rises in our blood, we make much more risky and impulsive decisions. The harms most typically associated with drinking too much in a single occasion are getting involved in a fight, doing some crazy stuff which leads to injuries getting into a car either to drive or with someone else who’s been drinking too much. We know that half of all alcohol related injuries on the road are related to young people under the age of 25. And the final thing is, and it’s particularly for women, if you drink too much you’re much more likely to put yourself in a compromising position, much more likely to be sexually assaulted when you’ve had too much on board.

I think the key message I’ll put across is that we live in a culture where drinking heavily is normalised and people get into trouble, people get into harms. We see that all the time. I think it’s important people recognise that and we think about together how we keep each other safe.

So what do we know. Well, we know from Dan that excessive drinking poses real, immediate dangers. We know that a lot of people don’t know how much is safe to drink and we know that many of us have gone beyond the limit. So next time you’re out on the town, know your limits, make a plan and take care of your mates.

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Last updated: October 2015

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