Drinking too much?

It might be time to assess your drinking patterns

Drinking responsibly

We drink to celebrate, commiserate, socialise, and just to relax. While alcohol is a legal drug, it can be more powerful and more problematic than people often credit it. Drinking too much, too often, or for too long can cause problems with your health, work and relationships.

Having an understanding of the types of problems alcohol can cause can help you to recognise issues when they occur, that you might have otherwise missed. There are a number of problems that are commonly related to alcohol, which can be a problematic substance. The good news is there’s guidance for what to do if you (or someone else) think you might be drinking too much. You don’t have to deal with these issues alone.

A quick guide to how much alcohol you're drinking

see the printable PDF below. Sourced from Alcohol.org.nz

What to look for

Alcohol has different effects on different people, so there’s no hard and fast rule about when drinking becomes a problem. However, for the reduction of long-term health risks the New Zealand guidelines (alcohol.org.nz) suggest the following:

No more than 2 standard drinks per day for women and no more than 10 standard drinks per week; no more than 3 standard drinks per day for men and no more than 15 standard drinks per week AND at least two alcohol free days every week.  Furthermore, in order to reduce your risk of injury on a single occasion of drinking an individual should aim to drink no more than 4 standard drinks for women;  5 standard drinks for men on any single occasion.

It’s easy to think, “everyone I know drinks more than four drinks when out” but it is a good thing to hold this number up to the amount you are usually drinking. The more you drink and the longer you’ve been drinking for, the more likely it will cause implications to your job, at home, or with other people. The trouble is that it can be hard to notice this in yourself, as often the harm can be gradual and you might feel that you are functioning just fine. Often it is other people who will be first to notice that you are having problems, but it’s an awkward topic to deal with, so you can’t rely on others to tell you outright.

So you might want to think back and see if there are any signs from others that point to an issue:

  • What are your friends and family saying? Have they commented on how much you’re drinking? Have any of your friends or family raised concerns about the amount of alcohol you drink?
  • Is there often ‘fall out’ to deal with from the night before? This could happen with a small amount of alcohol.
  • Do you have times when you have memory blackouts, when you can’t recall all the details of the night before? Have there been any occasions where you woke up and couldn't remember what happened the night before?
  • Do your friends state they avoid being around you when you're drinking?
  • Have you had issues at work due to turning up impaired or hungover?
  • Have you ever had injuries, accidents, or been in fights while drinking?
  • Have you ever had legal troubles, or worried that you would, as a result of your drinking?

If you believe one or more of the above statements apply to you then there may be some cause for concern and you may wish to seek support.


If you’re drinking a lot it’s likely you’ll develop a tolerance for alcohol, meaning it takes more to give you the same amount of buzz. That raised alcohol intake also increases the risk of physical harm, no matter whether you’ve reached that buzz state or not. So it’s doubly important to have an awareness of the amount you drinking, particularly if you are drinking habitually.

There are many reasons as to why people use alcohol.  These reasons will vary from person to person and alcohol can feel like a legitimate way to manage these in the short term. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant and whilst in the short term it can feel beneficial, long term use can have a depressant effect and can make our reasons for using worse over time. 

Alcohol affects lots of other body systems too. Most people know alcohol may make you sleepy, but few realise it disrupts your ability to stay asleep. That’s why it’s common after drinking to wake in the early hours of the morning, even if you’ve only had quite moderate intake. 

Do I have a problem with drinking?

Problematic alcohol use as we have seen above can impact on many areas of your life. Harm can occur in different ways i.e. from binge drinking to the long terms impacts of alcohol use.

It’s also important to note that the harm is not just caused by the negative effects of alcohol on our physical or mental health. Some of the harm can be more direct, and related to the ‘the kind of person you are when drinking’. Poor decision making while drinking, such as choosing to drive, or getting into fights has the real ability to affect your life and the lives of others around you.

What can I do about it?

If you think drinking is causing you some problems, here are some tips for making decisions about what to do, and ways to start managing your alcohol use. For some, these strategies might be all that is needed. For others, they can be a useful addition to getting professional help. Not sure whether you need that? Ask someone you trust if you’re making enough progress, or whether you should be getting some extra help.

Useful resources

Substance Use. Substance use can impact your performance. Learn about the health risks of tobacco, alcohol, and drug use and where to find support and resources for each. CHAMP Uniformed Services University: Human Performance Resources provide articles, resources and tools to help you navigate your interests and concerns.