What is a standard drink?


You’re about to put the key in the ignition or step foot into your workplace when it suddenly dawns on you that you may have had too much to drink. But hang on, you only had three beers and it’s been 2 hours. Surely If you were breath tested for alcohol you would be under the limit?

One of the difficulties you face in a situation like this is that those three beers may have been closer to 6 standard drinks, which in the space of 2 hours is likely to put most people over the limit.

So what is a standard drink?

In simple terms a standard drink is any drink containing 10 grams of alcohol, but for most of this isn’t particularly helpful. After all, even for beer 10 grams could be more than 2 stubbies if you’re drinking light beer or as little as half a stubby if you’re drinking a beer that is higher strength than normal.

Of course, if you are drinking stubbies or wine from a bottle, you can look at the label to get an idea of the approximate number of standard drinks you are consuming, but if you’re at a hotel, restaurant or other establishment where alcohol is served in glasses, you’ll need to do some calculations yourself or ask the staff.

 As a general guide:

  • A 425 ml glass of full strength beer is 1.6 standard drinks.
  • A stubby of full strength beer is 1.6 standard drinks.
  • 100 ml glass of red wine is 1 standard drink, while the same volume of white wine is 0.9.
  • There are 6.8 standard drinks in a bottle of white wine and 7.7 in a bottle of red.
  • A 30 ml nip of spirits is 1 standard drink.
  • A 330 ml bottle of full strength ready to drink spirit mixer is 1.2 standard drinks

The other thing to remember is it takes approximately 1 hour for your body to process 1 standard drink and most people can handle at least 1 drink an hour and still be under 0.05. Of course it’s slightly less for women and you need to take into account your size, health, mood, whether you’ve eaten, percentage of body fat…

Better call for a taxi!

By Michael

Michael is the founder of Integrity Sampling and is responsible for overseeing all national operations. He is based at Integrity Sampling's head office in Melbourne and is also responsible for the co-ordination of drug and alcohol testing within Victoria, assisting in the implementation of drug and alcohol (fit for work) policies and the presentation of drug and alcohol education and awareness programs. You can connect with Michael Wheeldon on LinkedIn

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