Risky drinking

You don't have to drink heavily all of the time or be dependent on alcohol to have alcohol-related problems. Some problems come from simply being drunk every now and again. Other problems may come from regularly drinking too much, even though you may hardly ever get drunk. Risky alcohol consumption contributes to a broad range of harms that are detrimental to not only the health and safety of individual ADF members, but which also impact negatively on behaviour, work and personal relationships, professional performance, and the morale, capacity, effectiveness and reputation of the ADF.

Much of the risk, cost and harm associated with alcohol usage in the ADF does not arise from the small number of members who are alcohol dependent, but rather from those who participate in occasional episodes of short-term risky drinking (binge drinking) and associated behaviours.

Alcohol fact sheet (PDF, 916.23 KB)

Problems associated with risky drinking

Different problems are related to different patterns of alcohol use. The possible problems associated with dependence, regular use and intoxication often overlap.

Intoxication: Problems that can arise from a single occasion of use include accidents, aggression/violence, drink driving, legal problems, and injuries.

Regular Use: Continued use over a longer period of time can result in health problems, relationship problems, and financial problems.

Dependence: Problems associated with dependence include isolation, withdrawal, and loss of control.

Alcohol use in the ADF

For healthy men and women, low risk drinking is up to two standard drinks a day, with no more than four standard drinks on any single occasion. Studies indicate that 29% of ADF members consume more than four standards drinks on a typical day when drinking, with 11.7% consuming more than seven. 29% drink two to three times a week, and 11% drink four or more times a week.

In the last 12 months, an estimated 2.8% of the ADF are considered to have consumed alcohol in a way that is damaging to their physical or mental health (harmful use), and a further 2.3% are considered to have been dependent on alcohol. At 5.2%, this rate of alcohol disorder is lower than that of the Australian community (8.3%), and females in the ADF are much less likely to be dependent on alcohol than males in the ADF.

ADF members between the ages of 18-27 are the most likely to have an alcohol disorder. The average age that ADF members first experience harmful use of alcohol is 21 years, and alcohol dependence is 23 years. On average it takes individuals 7 years to seek treatment for an alcohol disorder.

Being on deployment for longer than 5 months, and experiencing trauma or stress on deployment, are associated with increases in alcohol consumption. Specifically, reports of being in a vulnerable situation or in fear of a particular event, unable to respond to a threatening situation, or witnessing human degradation are associated with increased drinking.

Identifying level of risk

The most widely used screen for alcohol use in Australia is called the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT). The AUDIT is used consistently by ADF health providers to assist them in making decisions about appropriate treatment for members using alcohol in excess of low risk levels. You can complete the AUDIT on your own drinking behaviour to work out your level of risk. You can also use the ON TRACK - The Right Mix App to help you track and manage your alcohol consumption.

You may also wish to discuss things with a close friend or family member who you trust to be supportive. Sometimes it can really help to share a problem and get a different perspective on it by talking it over.

Getting help

If you have an alcohol related concern, the first point of call is your local medical or psychology section. Contact details for accessing services and support can be found on the Health and Rehabilitation Services page. The clinicians working in these facilities have sound professional skills and the knowledge to deal with most alcohol related issues, and also have established formal links with external service providers.

Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Program

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Program (AToDP) was launched in May 2002 with the ADF Mental Health Strategy.  The ADF Alcohol Management Strategy (ADFAMS) was first released in 2014, and was extended to 2020.

The AToDP designs, commissions and delivers evidence-based programs and initiatives to enhance the mental health and wellbeing of Defence members through:

  • Defence health workforce skilling
  • consultancy
  • strategic engagement.