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How Much Is Too Much?
Alcohol can be measured in standard drinks which have about 10mls of pure alcohol in them. Typical standard drinks are:

Beer (4 per cent alcohol) 250mls
Wine (11 per cent alcohol) 90mls
Sherry/Liquors (18 per cent alcohol) 60mls
Spirits (40 per cent alcohol) 25mls
It takes an hour for the liver to break down or metabolize one standard drink.

How much a person drinks is ultimately their choice, made for health and safety reasons. Keep in mind that the World Health Organisation recommends:

Men should have no more than 3-4 standard glasses 3-4 times per week
Women should have no more than 2-3 standard glasses 2-3 times per week

How Will It Affect You?

    Alter emotions
    make people angry, frustrated, violent, depressed

    Affect judgement
    it changes the chemical balance of the brain, and brain messages can get confused, impairing judgement.

    Slow reactions and alter co-ordination
    alcohol is quickly absorbed into the blood and rapidly affects the body. A person may feel relaxed and confident but proper coordination and reaction is lost.

    Reduce concentration
    alcohol is a sedative so it slows down the brain’s normal function processes. Abuse can cause memory loss and affect the ability for learning.

    Alcohol is measured in milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood. How alcohol would affect an average-sized person at one drinking session is shown below:

    Blood alcohol level Effect

    • 0-50mg/100ml Talkative, feeling of wellbeing
    • 50-80mg/100ml Attention and reaction slowed
    • 80-160mg/100ml Speech, balance, judgment, eyesight, movement and walking affected; sleepy, vomiting
    • 150-400mg/100ml Heavy breathing, “dead” drunk, no bladder control, coma
    • More than 400mg/100ml Potentially lethal, shock, death

    Abusing alcohol risks good health


    Alcohol is a toxin that is processed in the human body by the liver. But the liver is only able to process the amount of alcohol in one standard drink each hour. That means it'll take five hours to process the alcohol in five glasses of wine. So it takes time to sober up someone who's drunk. Coffee, fresh air, cold showers, won't do it.

    Too much alcohol over a long time can seriously damage the liver causing diseases such as hepatitis and cirrhosis.


    • Alcohol slows the brain causing changes in judgement and self-control, possibly resulting in accidents.
    • Long term heavy drinking damages brain cells.


    Too much alcohol over a short period can cause nausea, vomiting and an irritable stomach.
    Long term drinking can cause illnesses such as gastritis and stomach ulcers.

Alcohol is damaging in other ways

  • It quickly destroys healthy cells, even in small amounts. These cells are replaced, but replacement is limited if regular drinking occurs.
  • The body is at greater risk of being physically damaged when a woman has more than three to four standards drinks a day; or when a man has five to six standard drinks a day.
  • Alcohol is particularly dangerous for children. Their livers are smaller and not used to breaking down alcohol
  • Experts now believe that alcohol is best taken two to three times a week in limited doses.

Alcohol can be a big problem
  • Alcohol causes a lot of society's problems, such as road accidents, physical abuse, and family violence.
  • Being hooked on alcohol can cause a lot of problems in a person’s life, and be a terrible problem for those around them. As heavy drinkers lose control over their lives, their relationships and work suffer, their lives can be ruined.
  • Other people, who are just problem drinkers, lead normal lives and may not drink every day. But when they start drinking they find it hard to stop. They create arguments and get hangovers. Yet they don’t see themselves as having an alcohol problem. The more some one drinks, the more problems they are likely to have.
  • And of course, alcohol is expensive. Buying it leaves less money for necessities.

No one has to drink alcohol. Many people don’t.
It's OK to say NO! Or drink in moderation.

Reproduced with the kind permission of the New Zealand Police Association

Back to Alcohol Abuse Index

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