A standard drink is a theoretical drink containing a specific amount of pure alcohol, i.e. ethanol, the ingredient responsible for drunkenness.

This unit is a convenient way to measure alcohol consumption and evaluate health risks and it has been adopted worldwide. It is usually expressed as a certain quantity of a drink but, interestingly, what makes one standard drink varies significantly across the globe. In Australia and New Zealand, it equals to 10 grams of alcohol whereas in Japan, it is 19.75 grams for example.

It is easy to underestimate how much one drinks. Surely, a couple of glasses a night can’t do any harm? Well, it depends how big the glass is, and how full you make it. For each 100ml glass of table wine at 12.5{7e66f01e68c52d858b59d425bd8f3886b02d30322136bee7d8e459b39be00af4} alcohol that you drink, you are consuming 1 standard drink. However, an average wine glass filled two thirds will easily contain 200 ml, i.e. 2 standard drinks, so before you know it, your couple of glasses means 4 standard drinks.

Wine not your drink of choice? Let’s have a look at other alcohols. One unit will get you the following:

  • A 330ml can of beer at 4{7e66f01e68c52d858b59d425bd8f3886b02d30322136bee7d8e459b39be00af4} alcohol
  • 160ml (about half a bottle) of ready-to-drink spirits at 8{7e66f01e68c52d858b59d425bd8f3886b02d30322136bee7d8e459b39be00af4} alcohol
  • 27ml of pure spirits @ 41{7e66f01e68c52d858b59d425bd8f3886b02d30322136bee7d8e459b39be00af4} alcohol


How many units can I drink and still be under the legal limit for driving?

You may have heard people say that you won’t get in trouble if you drink only one glass of wine, one beer, etc… This is a misconception as there is no direct correlation between a standard drink and the blood alcohol concentration (BAC), which is what is measured by the police.
BAC largely reflects how your body absorbs alcohol, which varies considerably from one individual to the next, depending on your gender, your weight, your age, your metabolism, whether you have eaten recently, how long ago you had the last drink, whether you mixed different drinks, and even your stress levels! With so many variables, there can’t be a “one-size-fits-all” rule.
The fact is that any amount of alcohol will impair your judgement, your ability to estimate distances and your reflexes, and there isn’t such a thing as safe driving and drinking, even if you are under the legal limit.

Standard drinks and your health

Standard drinks as a notional unit are commonly used for medical purposes, to evaluate alcohol consumption. As our bodies adjust to increasing amounts of alcohol, not feeling drunk doesn’t necessarily mean that all is well: it may just be that your body has developed a higher tolerance.
When you get to that stage, it can be difficult to estimate how much you drink as it will have become a habit. The main indicators that you have a problem are the quantity you drink, how often you drink, and whether you drink as a response to specific emotional triggers.
To get a better picture of your situation, the best step forward is to keep a drink diary and note down every drink you have and when. You need to be honest, of course, but if you are, you may well find out that you consume more alcohol thank you realised.
It may also be useful to write down any consequences that have arisen from drinking: falling out with friends, blacking out, waking up somewhere unknown, getting into fights, etc… This, again, may help you become more aware of how drinking affects your life and may be just what you need to get things back on track.
Remember that, even if you don’t have a problem, drinking just a bit too much but on a regular basis can have detrimental effects on your health. Guidelines tend to evolve as medical research progresses, but it is now accepted that a couple of units daily for women, and three for men are enough to increase health risks such as liver diseases, and that the body needs at least 2 days a week drink-free.
“It’s fine then”, I hear you say “I don’t drink during the week, I only get drunk at the weekend.” Unfortunately, binge drinking is no kinder to your body, which is placed under considerable physiological stress, having to suddenly deal with large quantities of alcohol.
A drink with a good meal are one of life’s little pleasures, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, for some people, it can be the beginning of a slippery slope which is even more difficult to detect that it can take hold of your life very gradually.
If you think that you have a problem and are looking for addiction treatment centres or alcohol rehab in Auckland, contact us or call us on 09 973 5950. We are a private practice specialised in alcoholic help.