This article comes from UON’s resident Drug and Alcohol Counsellor, Lachlan Tiffen.


So we’re coming to the end of semester, and – depending on what postgrad study you’re doing and where you’re up to – this will likely mean a bit of celebrating. We all know the Faculties tend to have a few dinners or drinks nights to unwind, de-stress and socialise with colleagues. Some postgrads get involved with these; others do their own thing with friends. Either way, it’s usual that social events involve alcohol of some kind, and as new researchers/postgrad students, there’s often some pressure to indulge.

The pressure may come from perceived social norms (ie. “I see academics 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 people better”); it might come from recognised effects of alcohol (ie. “I’ve been so stressed 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’.


“We all know the Faculties tend to have a few dinners or drinks nights to unwind […] and as new researchers/postgrad students, there’s often some pressure to indulge.”


First the basics:

  • Get to 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.


  • Learn how to calculate and track your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC).
    (See BAC Apps; 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 (
  • NHMRC (2009) recommendation for alcohol consumption.
    • 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.
    • (



Tips to Drink Smart:  

  • Monitor the number of standard drinks you have and 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 minutes 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” to another drink when you’ve had enough is something people actually respect.


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


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