Risky Drinking

While many New Zealanders enjoy the social aspects of drinking alcohol, from a health perspective there is no completley “risk free" drinking. 

Most importantly, there is no "risk free" drinking for children and adolescents and "no known safe level" of drinking for pregnant women.

In general, the more alcohol consumed the greater the risk of short and long-term harm. A meta-analysis of literature on alcohol-related diseases indicated that alcohol increase the risk of over 200 health conditions, both chronic and acute conditions, and injuries. This harm places a significant burden on our health, social and other services as well as the individuals and families affected.  For more information on the harms from drinking, click here.

There are some styles or patterns of drinking that pose the greatest risk (e.g. binge drinking and alcohol use disorders). This section takes a look at these and suggests some actions that can help reduce the risk of harm.

This section also covers the harms from drinking during pregnancy and what you can do to support loved ones around you to avoid drinking during this important time.

If you are particularly interested in addressing drinking among children and young people, please click here

Many New Zealanders typically drink large amounts of alcohol in a session. It is important that New Zealanders drink less to lower their risk of short and long-term harm.

This section describes the concept of 'low-risk drinking' and guides you on action to reduce the risks of drinking to yourself and others.


Many New Zealanders in their lifetime will suffer an alcohol use disorder - this includes alcohol abuse and dependence. There are large inequities in New Zealand as Māori have a higher likelihood of experiencing issues of alcohol abuse. 

This section describes this alcohol use disorders, signs and symptoms and what you can do to take action (on your own drinking or that of others).


New Zealand's binge drinking culture results in significant harm to individuals and communities. Intoxication or drunkenness can lead to serious injury and harm to the drinker, and to others.

This section assists you to take action on intoxication, with the support of others.


Drink driving continues to kill or injure many of our loved ones. You can take action on this serious issue by having a strong stance against drink driving and by addressing some of the wider factors in our country which give rise to this problem.


References - Risky Drinking (including pregnancy)

  1. Department of Health of the Government of the United Kingdom. Alcohol Guidelines Review – Report from the Guidelines Development Group to the UK Chief Medical Officers. London: Department of Health; 2016. Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/545739/GDG_report-Jan2016.pdf  [Accessed 9 November 2017].
  2. Holmes J, Angus C, Buykx P, Ally A, Stone T, Meier P, et al. Mortality and Morbidity Risks from Alcohol Consumption in the UK:analyses using the Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model (v. 2.7) to inform the UK Chief Medical Officers’ review of the UK lower risk drinking guidelines. Sheffield: ScHARR, University of Sheffield; 2016. Retrieved from https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/polopoly_fs/1.538671!/file/Drinking_Guidelines_Final_Report_Published.pdf [Accessed 9 November 2017].
  3. Brennan A, Meng Y, Holmes J, Hill-McManus D, Meier PS. Potential benefits of minimum unit pricing for alcohol versus a ban on below cost selling in England 2014: modelling study. BMJ 2014; 349:g5452.
  4. Connor J, Kydd R, Maclennan B, Shield K, Rehm J. 2017. Alcohol-attributable cancer deaths under 80 years of age in New Zealand.Drug Alcohol Rev 2017; 36(3):415-423.
  5. Connor J, Kydd R, Shield K, Rehm J. The burden of disease and injury attributable to alcohol in New Zealanders under 80 years of age: marked disparities by ethnicity and sex. The New Zealand Medical Journal 2015; 128(1409):15-28.
  6. National Health and Medical Research Council of the Australian Government. Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol. Canberra: National Health and Medical Research Council; 2009. Retrieved from https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/guidelines-publications/ds10 [Accessed 9 November 2017].
  7. Ministry of Health, Annual Update of Key Results 2015/16: New Zealand Health Survey. Wellington: Ministry of Health; 2016. Retrieved from http://www.health.govt.nz/system/files/documents/publications/annual-update-key-results-2015-16-nzhs-dec16-v2.pdf[Accessed 5 July 2017].
  8. Mohan D, Tiwari G, Khayesi M, Nafukho F-M. Road Traffic Injury Prevention: Training Manual. Geneva: World Health Organiszation. 2006. Retrieved from http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/43271/1/9241546751_eng.pdf [Accessed 9 November 2017].
  9. Tulloh BR, Collopy BT. Positive correlation between blood alcohol level and ISS in road trauma. Injury 1994; 25(8):539-543.
  10. Ministry of Transport. Alcohol and Drugs. Wellington: Ministry of Transport; 2016.
  11. Sharpe M. Big decrease in number of motorist convicted for drink driving. Stuff 6 October 2015. Retrieved from http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/72349460/big-decrease-in-number-of-motorists-convicted-for-drink-driving [Accessed 9 November 2017].
  12. Edwards J. Regulatory Impact Analysis - Reducing Road Trauma and the Cost of Reoffending: Mandatory Alcohol Interlocks. 2016.
  13. Nochajski TH, Stasiewicz PR. Relapse to driving under the influence (DUI): A review. Clin Psychol Rev 2006;26(2):179-195.
  14. Haimona Te Aoterangi & 167 others (1874). Petition Presented to the House of Representatives Retrieved from https://atojs.natlib.govt.nz/cgi-bin/atojs?a=d&d=AJHR1874-I. [Accessed 9 November 2017].
  15. Fitzpatrick JP, Latimer J, Olson HC, Carter M, Oscar J, Lucas BR, Doney R, Salter C, Try J, Hawkes G, Fitzpatrick E. Prevalence and profile of Neurodevelopment and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) amongst Australian Aboriginal children living in remote communities. Research in Developmental Disabilities. 201;65:114-26.
  16. May PA, Baete A, Russo J, Elliott AJ, Blankenship J, Kalberg WO, Buckley D, Brooks M, Hasken J, Abdul-Rahman O, Adam MP. Prevalence and characteristics of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Pediatrics. 2014;134(5):855-66.
  17. Streissguth AP, Bookstein FL, Barr HM, Sampson PD, O'malley K, Young JK. Risk factors for adverse life outcomes in fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics. 2004; 25(4):228-38.  
  18. Cook JL, Green CR, Lilley CM, Anderson SM, Baldwin ME, Chudley AE, Conry JL, LeBlanc N, Loock CA, Lutke J, Mallon BF. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder: a guideline for diagnosis across the lifespan. Canadian Medical Association Journal. 2016; 188(3):191-7.
  19. FASD Working Group. Taking Action on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder: 2016–2019: An Action Plan. Wellington: Ministry of Health. 2016. Retrieved from http://www.health.govt.nz/publication/taking-action-fetal-alcohol-spectrum-disorder-2016-2019-action-plan [Accessed 9 November 2017].