Dry July | How alcohol effects your health

Thursday 1 July marks the beginning of 'Dry July' - a national fundraiser providing invaluable services to cancer patients, their families and carers. Dry July encourages participants to go alcohol-free throughout July to help raise much-needed funds, whilst also encouraging health benefits for those partaking.

We spoke with one of Accelerate Health’s psychologists, who shed light on the health effects of alcohol and the benefits of sobriety (whether long-term, or just for a month).

What does alcohol do?
Alcohol is classified as a Central Nervous System depressant, which slows brain function and affects the body, thoughts and behaviours. Drinking alcohol too much, too frequently, or finding it difficult to control the amount of alcohol consumed can be indicative of a larger problem.

What is alcohol abuse?
‘Alcohol abuse’ describes habitual, excessive use of alcohol. Individuals who abuse alcohol drink too much on occasion (such as 'binge drinking’), or large amounts too frequently. Alcohol abuse (excessive drinking) differs from alcohol addiction (the psychological dependence on alcohol) - as such, it can affect any member of society, including the majority who are abstinent or consume alcohol in moderation.

How does alcohol abuse affect your health?
Alcohol abuse is the most harmful form of substance use in the world for young and middle-aged adults in developed countries. It can lead to both short and long-term problems such as reduced inhibitions, loss of alertness, impaired memory, blurred vision, disturbed sleep, nausea, shakiness and vomiting.

What is a healthy amount of alcohol to consume?
The effect of alcohol is entirely dependent on the health - including age and genetics - of the drinker. To reduce the risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury, healthy men and women are encouraged to drink no more than 10 standard drinks (1 standard drink = 10mg of alcohol) a week, and no more than 4 standard drinks on any one day.

While your intake of alcohol is your choice, the less you drink, the lower your risk of harm.

Reasons to consider cutting down on alcohol, or quitting drinking altogether:

  • Improving your health: Health problems such as weight gain, liver disease, brain injury, cancer and heart problems are all strongly linked to alcohol consumption - the more you drink the greater the risk.
  • Improving your mood + sleep: Heavy drinking can result in poor quality sleep, meaning worse hangover effects.
  • Improve your relationships: The effects of alcohol can lead to poor decision making, which in turn can have a negative effect on your relationships. If drinking is causing friction with friends, partners or family members, cutting back can make a dramatic difference.
  • Save money: Cutting back on alcohol can make a significant difference in your miscellaneous spending each month. If you want to make a difference with your funds saved, you can make a donation to the Dry July Foundation.

Dry July is a great way to reassess your relationship with alcohol consumption and see the health benefits of taking a month off. For more information or support, visit https://drinkwise.org.au/drinking-and-you/support-services/#