top of page

Defining problem drinking

For workplaces, problem drinking is any drinking that impacts on the workplace, even if it happens outside of work hours and/or away from work.

Drinking alcohol can negatively affect an organisation's health and safety, its people, productivity, customers, business relationships, as well as its corporate reputation.


Alcohol misuse is a general term for any level of risk, from hazardous drinking to alcohol dependence.

Binge drinking commonly refers to drinking a large amount of alcohol on one occasion, but the definition of that ‘large amount’ varies. Often the terms ‘heavy drinking’ or ‘high-risk drinking’ are used instead.

Risky drinking can mean drinking a large amount or more than is advised on one occasion. But it can also refer to the number of times someone drinks, because drinking very frequently (ie, every day) can damage our health, even if the amount isn't very much.

Hazardous drinking refers to a drinking pattern that could harm our physical or mental health, or have social effects on the drinker or others.

Alcohol dependence refers to situations where a person feels such a strong need for alcohol that drinking is given priority over other things the person has previously found much more important. Dependence ranges from mild to severe.

Is your drinking okay?

Take the test to see if your drinking patterns could be hazardous.

What’s a standard drink?

A standard drink isn’t usually the same as a glass of wine or beer poured in a pub or at home.

One standard drink in New Zealand contains 10 grams of pure alcohol. The 'standard drink' measure is a simple way for you to work out how much alcohol you are drinking.

The number of standard drinks in different alcoholic drinks varies. It depends on the size of the container and the amount of alcohol the drink contains.

The law requires all bottles, cans and casks of alcoholic drinks to be labelled with how many standard drinks they contain. Look at the label for wording about standard drinks or for a standard drinks image. The number inside the image tells you approximately how many standard drinks in the container.

See the Guide to Standard Drinks to better understand how much alcohol is in a drink.

Low-risk drinking is not the same as no risk

Even low-risk drinkers can have problems because a range of factors affect our level of risk. These include how fast we drink, our body type or genetic makeup, gender, existing health problems, and our age.

For some people, at some stages of life or with some conditions, no alcohol is the only safe choice. Read more low-risk drinking advice.

When not to drink

It’s advisable not to drink if a person:

  • is pregnant, or planning to get pregnant

  • is on medication that interacts with alcohol

  • has a condition that could be made worse by drinking alcohol

  • feels unwell, depressed, tired or cold as alcohol could make things worse

  • is about to operate machinery or a vehicle or do anything that is risky or requires skill.

bottom of page