It’s fair to say alcohol is an accepted part of Australia’s social fabric.
Whatever is going on in our lives – good or bad – can be cause for a drink. We celebrate with it when we get a new job, when our team wins and when we meet someone new. We commiserate with it when we lose our job, feel stressed at work or have a relationship breakup. We drink when we’re happy and when we’re sad, or just because it’s Friday. Really, any excuse will do.
While this is not always cause for concern, how do we know when alcohol is doing us harm? What are the signs that we may be drinking too much, and when does ‘a quick drink after work’ become a habit we can’t break?
To get an idea, ask yourself these questions:
- Do you drink more than two standard drinks a day?
- Do you feel you need to drink to relax, or feel unwell until you have a drink?
- Do you feel like drinking as soon as you wake up each day?
- Do you experience memory loss when you’ve been drinking?
- Do you drink alone when you can’t find a drinking buddy?
- Do emotional situations compel you to drink, such as arguments or stress?
- Have you noticed you’d rather drink than exercise or do other things you once enjoyed?
- Has anyone mentioned they are worried about your drinking?
- Do you conceal how much or how often you drink from others?
- Do you tend to get angry, violent or depressed when you drink?
- Have you tried to give up the booze but haven’t been able to?
If you answered yes to more than one of these, alcohol may be more of a problem for you than you realised, and it might be time to talk to someone about it.
Alcohol is expensive in more ways than one
Most of us have experienced a hangover and have probably had a laugh about it, but the long-term effects of drinking are anything but a laughing matter. Alcohol is linked to over 200 physical and mental health conditions including liver disease, stomach ulcers, family violence, depression and suicidal thoughts.
And it doesn’t end there.
There is also a heavy financial burden on Victoria’s health and justice systems, workplaces, families and individuals. VicHealth estimates that alcohol-related illness, violence, crime and loss of productivity cost us around $4.3 billion every year. When you consider that much of this expense is avoidable, it makes for sombre reading.
It’s not all doom and gloom
While alcohol is undoubtedly a widespread problem, improvements are arising in surprising quarters. In his role as an alcohol and other drugs counsellor at Victorian construction industry redundancy fund Incolink, Alex Tsiliris is at the coalface of the harm it can cause.
He says that while the number of workers presenting to Incolink’s counselling team for alcohol-related support has increased in the past year, this is a positive sign.
“These days there’s a lot of awareness on construction sites about the links between alcohol and mental health,” says Alex.
“This de-stigmatisation means construction workers, still mostly male, are much more likely to see a counsellor than they used to be. Although we’re seeing an increase in the number of people asking for help, the upside is that this shows the message is getting through and people are dealing with issues rather than ignoring them – a big change from the way the industry used to be.”
Alex’s advice is to talk to someone. “It can be a real pressure release. Admitting to yourself that you may have a problem is tough, but you’ll thank yourself in the long run,” he says.
Your GP is a good place to start as they’ll know what services are available in your local area and can refer you on.