Of Substance

Guest post by Lachlan Tiffen Psychologist/UON D&A Counsellor

Drugs & AlcoholSo we’re at the end of semester and depending on what your plans are will likely mean a bit of celebrating. This might be here with friends you’ve made, while travelling during the break, or back at home catching up with people you’ve known before coming to UON. Whatever these celebrations will be its pretty likely that alcohol of some kind will be involved and there’s often some pressure to (over)indulge. The pressure may come from perceived social norms (ie. I see others drinking and want to fit in); it might come from internal motivation (ie. alcohol makes me feel more sociable and I want get to know these people better or re-connect); it might come from recognised effects of alcohol (ie. I’ve been so stressed during exams and alcohol makes me feel less stressed). Everyone has different reasons; but it’s important to remember there is always a choice about whether to drink or not to drink… and how much. I often frame this as learning how to ‘drink smart not hard’.

First the basics:

  • Know your Standard Drinks: It’s the equivalent of 10g of alcohol and is the amount of alcohol the average liver can process in 1 hour. The standard drinks contained in each beverage you have varies by alcohol type and serving size.


  • Calculate and track your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC): (See BAC Apps http://adesaustralia.com/free-app/; baczone.com/ProductsApp.html) BAC is a measure of alcohol content in your blood and varies due to body size, body fat, gender, liver function, whether you’ve previously drunk alcohol or eaten recently. BAC helps you to gauge your level of intoxication as BAC levels are linked with levels of impairment (https://dotedon.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/bac-chart.jpg).
  • Consider the NHMRC (2009) alcohol consumption guidelines. 1) No more than two standard drinks on any day reduces the lifetime risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury. 2) No more than four standard drinks on a single occasion reduces the risk of alcohol-related injury arising from that occasion. 3) For women who are pregnant, planning a pregnancy or breastfeeding, not drinking is the safest option. (nhmrc.gov.au/_files_nhmrc/file/publications/synopses/ds10-alcoholqa.pdf)

Tips to Drink Smart:  

  • Monitor number of standard drinks you have; calculate and track your BAC
  • Eat something before you have your first alcoholic drink
  • Have a non-alcoholic drink first and then every second or third drink (‘a spacer’).
  • Gauge the effect of each drink by allowing time for alcohol to be absorbed into your bloodstream (about 15 mins or 3-4 songs) before having another (ie. pace yourself).
  • Avoid other people topping up your glass, as it makes it difficult to keep track of how many standard drinks you’ve had.
  • Drink low-alcohol drinks, and avoid mixed drinks, like cocktails, as it is difficult to tell how much alcohol they contain.
  • Avoid drinking in shouts or rounds, so you don’t feel pressured to keep up.
  • Sip drinks, avoid salty snacks or other food that increase thirst.
  • Remember confidently saying “no thanks” or “thanks I’m good for now” to another drink when you had enough is something people actually respect.


To really enjoy (and remember) this semester break try the Drink Smart Not Hard approach


If you want to discuss your or someone else’s alcohol or other substance use contact UON Counselling on 49216622 or counselling@newcastle.edu.au Ask the Student Support Advisor to speak to Lachlan Tiffen (Psychologist/D&A Counsellor)

About the author

The material or views expressed on this Blog are those of the author and do not represent those of the University.  Please report any offensive or improper use of this Blog to RPS@newcastle.edu.au.
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