No – you haven’t gone to the wrong site. At Alcohol&Me STD’s don’t refer to those taboo diseases that no-one wants to talk about (or have!). Here, STD’s refer to standards, or more precisely, Standard drinks.

While most kiwis have heard about standard drinks, only a quarter of us can accurately explain what it is. So what you say – why does this matter? Not knowing and understanding what a standard drink is, means you are missing the single most important piece of information we need to stay safe and sociable when we drink. So, in this article we want to help you become one of the experts when it comes to standard drinks.

what-is-a-standard-drink

What is a standard drink?

The average healthy human liver can only process approx. 10 grams of pure alcohol per hour and there is no way to speed this up. A standard drink is a drink containing 10g of pure alcohol, so every standard drink, regardless of whether its wine, beer, spirits, RTD or cider, takes an hour to process, and your liver can’t process more than one standard drink at a time.

What does this look like in reality?

A standard drink is not always one glass, can or bottle. In fact, the average pour of wine in any bar or restaurant in NZ is 150mls. That’s 1.5 standard drinks which means that it will take your body 1.5 hours to process the alcohol in that glass. A 12 pack of 5% beers on a Saturday night is 15.6 standard drinks or 15.6 hours’ worth of processing.

what-is-a-standard-drink

It is super easy to find out how many standard drinks you are having by checking the label on the back of every bottle or can. It will look something like this.

This wine label tells us there are 8 standard drinks in the bottle – so it will take my body 8 hours to process the alcohol if I drink this bottle by myself. Makes you stop and think doesn’t it!

If you want to be savvier about what you are drinking, I encourage you to get to know what a standard drink looks like for your favourite tipple. Even better, get a measuring cup out or head to our interactive pour tool and get to know what it looks like in your glass. Regardless of whether you pour to this same level again, at least you might stop kidding yourself that it was only 1 wine when it was more like 3 standard drinks in the one glass! Here is a quick Standard Drinks guide for you to commit to memory but you might also like to check out our Standard Drink Calculator:

100mls wine = 1 Standard drink
255mls of 5% beer or cider = 1 Standard drinks
30mls spirit = 1 Standard drink
180ml 7% RTD = 1 Standard drink

Click here to download a poster for the fridge if you want help remembering this in the future.

Let’s now look at some common drink choices and vessels to give you an idea of exactly how much you are drinking when you are out and about socialising with family, friends and workmates:

  • A 330ml bottle of 5% beer has 1.3 std drink in it, that’s 1.3 hours’ worth of processing for the liver
  • A typical glass of wine/flute of sparkling wine or champagne is 150ml – that is 1.5 std drinks or 1.5 hours to process
  • A 250ml can of 7% RTD – is 1.4 std drinks aka 1.4 hours work for the liver
  • A 1.8L jug of Speight’s is 5.7 std drinks or 5.7 hours’ worth of processing
  • That gorgeous looking cocktail will be at least 5 – 2 std drinks. If it’s a long island ice tea it will be much more!

 

Being aware of how much you are really drinking and watching the speed at which you drink are key to lasting a social occasion in style. Remember there is no way to speed the liver up. Yes water, food, medication, your size etc can make us feel the effects of the alcohol differently but they DON’T speed up the processing of the alcohol itself. Your liver can only process 1 standard drink (10gms of pure alcohol) per hour.

drink-driving-limit-nz

If you drink faster than one standard drink per hour (which lets be honest most of us have done at least once in our lives!), the alcohol that is waiting to be processed by your liver gets carried to other parts of your body, through your blood, while it waits its turn. This is why we start saying and doing things we would not usually do and why we can wake up the next day feeling rotten.

So, like most things in life when it comes to standard drinks moderation is the key. To help us understand how much it is reasonable to drink while still looking after health and wellbeing, the official Ministry of Health & Health Promotion Agency (HPA) guidelines suggests we follow these guidelines:

  • Women – should have no more than 2x standard drinks a day and should drink a maximum of 5 days a week (i.e. have 2x alcohol free days a week). Total 10 standard drinks a week
  • Men – should have no more than 3x standard drinks a day and should drink a maximum of 5 days a week (i.e. also having 2x alcohol free days a week). Total 15 standard drinks a week

Anything more than 10 (for female) / 15 (for male) is considered “heavy drinking”.

Just quickly, for those of you sitting there patting yourself on the back right now for only drinking 1 or 2 nights a week – please note, that if even if you only drink 1 night a week but consume more than the 10/15 recommendation, you will still be considered a heavy drinker and that is when the serious health side effects of alcohol kick in. These guidelines are designed to help people establish healthy habits for their lifetime. If you overdo it a bit one day, don’t fret – it’s never too late to make a positive change!

The key things to remember when it comes to STD’s are:

  • A healthy adult liver can only process 10gms of pure alcohol (1 standard drink) per hour and there is no way to speed this process up
  • One standard drink is not always one glass or bottle, so get to know what a standard drink is for your favourite alcoholic drink
  • “One an hour” is a good rule of thumb for most adult drinkers but always drink at the pace that is right for you as we all feel the effects of alcohol differently

For more tips and practical advice check out our fun, interactive ‘Know your Drink’ module or have a read of some of our other helpful articles here.

Cheers

ALCOHOL&ME TEAM