Some people overestimate how much they can drink. The first step in deciding whether we need to cut back is to consider how many standard drinks are in that glass of wine, beer or spirit.
A miscalculation increases the risk of drinking more than you should. Here are 10 reasons to cut down on drinking.
1. IMPROVING HEALTH
Reducing alcohol intake means you might find it easier to manage your weight. Some drinks may have as many calories as high-fat foods.
In a British study, alcohol represented a large proportion of calories consumed (over 25 per cent for men and nearly 20 per cent for women) on the heaviest drinking day - and these are calories with little or no nutritional value.
There was a link to obesity, but the relationship is complex.
Some heavy drinkers do not eat well, partly contributing to the paradoxical observation that some heavy drinkers are underweight, rather than overweight.
Health problems such as liver disease, brain injury, cancer and heart problems are strongly linked to drinking alcohol, and the more you drink, the greater the risk.
2. IMPROVING MOOD AND SLEEP
Excessive alcohol consumption can increase the risk of mental and physical health problems.
Depression and anxiety are more common after heavy drinking.
If you have trouble sleeping, cutting back on alcohol might help. You might fall asleep more quickly after drinking, but heavy drinking can result in poor-quality sleep, meaning worse hangover effects.
3. IMPROVING RELATIONSHIPS
Alcohol-affected choices are not always the best ones. You might think you are the life of the party, but others may be less impressed.
Serious relationship problems can be related to alcohol.
A recent Australian report found that about one-third of all intimate partner violence was linked to alcohol. If drinking is causing friction with friends, partners or family members, cutting back can make a huge difference.
4. SAVING MONEY
Australian households on average spend the same amount on alcohol as they do on domestic fuel and power. Drinking less will make less of a dent on the annual bill.
5. PROTECTING BABY'S WELL-BEING
If you are thinking about having a baby or if you are pregnant, the safest option is not to drink.
Drinking before breastfeeding is not advisable because some of the alcohol will find its way into the breast milk.
The more you drink, the greater the risk to your baby's well-being. It is safest not to drink at all when you are pregnant.
Fathers should also think about their drinking habits. There is emerging evidence that alcohol consumption by the father can have an impact on pregnancy health, on maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy, on foetal outcomes and on infant health outcomes.
6. AVOIDING DEPENDENCY (IF THERE'S A FAMILY HISTORY)
You should try to cut back on alcohol if there is a family member who has a history of dependence.
This increases your own risk of becoming alcohol-dependent too.
7. INTERACTIONS WITH DRUGS
If you use other medications, you significantly increase the risk to your health by drinking alcohol.
For example, alcohol can combine with depressant drugs such as those used to treat pain to increase the risk of impaired driving as well as the risk of overdose.
It is important to be aware of this and seek advice from an addiction specialist or your doctor.
8. BRAIN DEVELOPMENT MAY BE AFFECTED
Studies show that alcohol intake can disrupt the brain development of young people, which can affect their capacity to learn, make good decisions and do well at school.
9. RISK OF FALLS FOR ELDERLY
Older people are more likely to experience health conditions that are exacerbated by alcohol use.
Changes in the body can mean that you are more affected by alcohol. Older people are also more at risk of alcohol-related falls and injury.
10. INTOXICATION LEADS TO POOR BEHAVIOUR AND RISK-TAKING
Intoxication can result in a range of injuries at the workplace and on the roads. It can also lead to violent behaviour.
By drinking less and drinking slowly, you can reduce the chances of putting yourself and others at risk because of intoxication.
You should take drinks together with food, or after you have had something to eat.
- Steve Allsop is a professor at the National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University, and Tina Lam is a research fellow there.
- This article first appeared in The Conversation (http://theconversation.com), a website which carries analysis by academics and researchers.