Alcohol and drugs

This year, thousands of Australians over 15 years will die from alcohol-related injury and disease.

At the same time, alcohol will cause heart, liver and brain damage to thousands more. It will also increase the risk of obesity, diabetes and many cancers, particularly in women.

It’s not just the long-term effects of alcohol that are of concern. The more immediate effects of alcohol on brain function, reasoning and your body also increase your risk of injury and violence through sexual assault, rape, unplanned pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, road trauma, violence, falls and accidental death.

Alcohol is the most widely used drug in Australia. It affects people in different ways depending on their gender, age and body weight; other medicine and drugs they may use; their health and the way their body metabolises alcohol. While you might consider yourself a moderate drinker of alcohol, there is no amount of alcohol that can be said to be safe for everyone.

Responsible drinking is about balancing your enjoyment of alcohol with the potential risks and harm that may arise from drinking.

Australian guidelines on alcohol consumption:
  • for healthy women and men, no more than:
    • two standard drinks on any day reduces your risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury over a lifetime
    • four standard drinks on a single occasion reduces the risk of alcohol-related injury arising from that occasion.
  • for children and young people less than 18 years of age, not drinking alcohol is the safest option
    • children under 15 years of age are at the greatest risk of harm from drinking and for this age group, not drinking alcohol is especially important
    • for young people aged 15 to 17 years, the safest option is to delay the initiation of drinking for as long as possible.
  •  for women who are pregnant, planning a pregnancy or breastfeeding, not drinking is the safest option.

Other drugs

All illicit drugs, including so-called designer drugs, can have harmful effects, though the effects differ from drug to drug. Just because extensive research has not been carried out on these drugs, do not assume they cannot cause severe short- and long-term damage. Remember, people in the 1950s believed tobacco wouldn’t harm them. 


The Women’s does not accept any liability to any person for the information or advice (or use of such information or advice) which is provided on the Website or incorporated into it by reference. The Women’s provide this information on the understanding that all persons accessing it take responsibility for assessing its relevance and accuracy. Women are encouraged to discuss their health needs with a health practitioner. If you have concerns about your health, you should seek advice from your health care provider or if you require urgent care you should go to the nearest Emergency Dept.