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Guide to responsible drinking

It’s great to taste new alcoholic beverages, have fun and socialize. However, it is important to be responsible and understand that excessive intake of alcohol is harmful. Below are some things to consider, so you can make sure you're drinking responsibly.


Alcohol is classed as a ‘sedative hypnotic’ drug which means it acts to depress the central nervous system at high doses. At lower doses, alcohol can act as a stimulant, inducing feelings of euphoria and talkativeness, but drinking too much alcohol at one session can lead to drowsiness, respiratory depression (where breathing becomes slow, shallow or stops entirely), coma or even death. As well as its acute and potentially lethal sedative effect at high doses, alcohol has effects on every organ in the body and these effects depend on the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over time.


SOURCE: Alcohol the body and health effects: a brief overview. Health promotion agency,

What is a standard drink?

A standard drink is how much alcohol the average person can process in one hour. You can’t speed this process up, and your body can only deal with one drink at a time.

The time your body takes to process alcohol does depend on several factors including your age, weight sex, genetics and health condition.


However, a general rule of thumbs can be used:

  • 1 shot 40% ABV Spirit = 1 Standard Drink

  • 330ml bottle 4% ABV Beer = 1 Standard Drink

  • 100ml glass 13% ABV Wine = 1 Standard Drink

For more information on standard drinks, see:


Liquor Bans

There are many places around New Zealand that have alcohol bans. If a ban is in place you can’t drink or have an open container of alcohol in these areas. In addition, public place liquor bans can be enforced in areas such as carparks and school grounds, streets, beaches and parks. If you’re caught breaking the ban you can be fined $250.


To Drive or Not to Drive

The breath alcohol limit for adult drivers is 250 micrograms (mcg) of alcohol per litre of breath. The blood alcohol limit for adult drivers is 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. Drivers who commit an offence between 251-400mcg of breath will face infringement fee of $200 and will receive 50 demerit points. Drivers who accumulate 100 or more demerit points from driving offences within two years receive a three month driver licence suspension.

There is a zero alcohol limit for drivers under the age of 20 years of age.


Our recommendation:

It is difficult to say how many alcoholic drinks you can have before you reach these limits. It depends on many factors, including:

  • your age, sex and ethnicity (women have lower alcohol tolerance than men due to differences in metabolism and absorption; some ethnic groups have different levels of a liver enzyme responsible for the breakdown of alcohol)

  • your body size(heavier and more muscular people have more fat and muscle to absorb the alcohol)

  • how much food you have eaten

  • the concentration of alcohol in the beverage you are having (highly concentrated spirits are quickly absorbed by the body (i.e. make you drunk faster) and take longer to be broken down)

  • how frequently a person drinks alcohol (someone who drinks often can tolerate the sedating effects of alcohol more than someone who does not regularly drink).

Because of this, and because even small amounts of alcohol can affect your driving, the best advice is: if you drink at all, don't drive. If you've been drinking, call a taxi, take a bus or get someone who hasn't been drinking, such as a friend or 'dial-a-driver', to drive you home. Think about how you will feel if you cause an accident and harm another person.


Party host responsibility

If you're hosting a party, you are responsible for the safety and welfare of your guests. Here are some quick tips on how to be a good and responsible host:

  • Serve food - good food and drink is the lifeblood of a great party. Opt for cheeses and veggies and less salty foods as salt make people thirsty and thus more likely to drink

  • Ensure that there are plenty of non-alcoholic drinks available. A good idea is to make up a non-alcoholic punch.

  • Pace your own drinks so you’re alert just in case something needs your immediate and full attention

  • Provide extra blankets and pillows for people to spend the night

  • Make sure none of your guests who have been drinking are driving home

  • Watch out for the ladies! Females get drunk faster than men and their judgment can be impaired. If you see a lady drinking too fast or too much, offer some water or coffee and make sure she can get home safely or stay overnight.


When you should not drink

It’s advisable that you don't drink alcoholic beverages if you:

  • are pregnant or planning to get pregnant: drinking alcohol, even in small doses, increases the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth or of a baby being born with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.

  • are on medication that interacts with alcohol

  • have a condition that could be made worse by drinking alcohol

  • feel unwell, depressed, tired or cold, as alcohol could make things worse

  • are about to operate machinery or a vehicle or do anything that is risky or requires skill.

If you are not sure or are concerned, check with your doctor.

For more tips on drinking responsibly, visit

The Alcohol Drug Helpline provides free and confidential information and self-help material, advice and referrals to local drug and alcohol services. For further information and resources about alcohol, visit: or call the Alcohol Drug Helpline: 0800 787 797

Want to give up alcohol or reduce your drinking?

There are several organizations that can help you to either give up alcohol or reduce your drinking to levels that are less hamful. Alcohol is a drug and it creates addiction. To seek help we recommend talking to your doctor. Below are some organisations that can also help:


Alcoholics anonymous

The Alcohol Experiment

Alcohol Drug Helpline

Living Sober

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