Revised guidelines on alcohol consumption

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has released newly revised guidelines on reducing health risks from drinking alcohol.

The draft guidelines are open for public comment until February 24, 2020.

“In 2017 there were more than 4,000 alcohol-related deaths in Australia, and across 2016/17 more than 70,000 hospital admissions. Alcohol is linked to more than 60 medical conditions, particularly numerous cancers. So, we all need to consider the risks when we decide how much to drink,” commented Professor Anne Kelso, CEO of the National Health and Medical Research Council.

The NHMRC recommends that healthy men and women drink no more than 10 standard drinks per week and no more than four standard drinks on any one day.

The council cautions though that it is not saying that this level of drinking eliminates risk as the less a person drinks the lower the risk of alcohol-related harm and for some people not drinking at all is the safest option.

As for adolescents under the age of 18, it recommends that they don’t drink as alcohol can harm the way the brain develops, increase the risk of injury and other immediate harm, and increase the risk of developing alcohol-related conditions later in life.

This applies to pregnant and breastfeeding women too.

“If all Australians follow these guidelines we won’t stop every alcohol-related death, but we will save thousands of lives, especially younger lives,” said Professor Brendan Murphy, Australia’s Chief Medical Officer and a member of the council.

The 2019 guidelines build on the 2009 guidelines. The revision process has taken three years and included analysis of many studies and systematic reviews; a public call for evidence on the benefits as well as the harms of alcohol; and mathematical modelling of the health effects of alcohol and different levels of consumption.