Excessive alcohol consumption fact sheet

It's no secret that alcohol consumption can cause major health problems, including cirrhosis of the liver, brain damage and injuries sustained in automobile accidents. Chronic heavy drinking is also the major cause of road and other accidents, and contributes significantly to domestic and public violence, crime, family breakdown and broader social dysfunction.

People who consume more than two standard drinks per day (on average over a 12 month period) are categorised as lifetime risky drinkers. Those who consume five or more standard drinks on a single drinking occasion are considered risky drinkers.

Healthy men and women can reduce their risk of alcohol-related injury by drinking no more than four standard drinks on a single occasion.

Harmful alcohol use affects a wide range of people, regardless of race, cultural background, education, religion, gender or age. Reasons for drinking at harmful levels are varied and may be complex.

Age is an important determinant of health risks related to alcohol. Younger people are far more likely to suffer alcohol-related accident or injury; for example, more than half of all serious alcohol-related road injuries occur among 15-24-year-olds. Older people are more prone to damage from alcohol-related disease.

Pilot and controller information

The hazardous and problematic use of alcohol has been associated with aviation accidents.

  • For pilots and controllers who have problematic use of alcohol, the most successful treatment has resulted from abstinence from all alcohol use. For this reason, certification may be possible when pilots and controllers demonstrate abstinence.
  • The best way to demonstrate abstinence is through objective evidence of abstinence and careful attention to monitoring.
  • Problematic use of alcohol is associated with serious medical problems quite apart from the hazard to aviation activities.

The effect of aviation on the condition

  • Hypoxia - increase in cognitive decrement caused by alcohol.

The effect of the condition on aviation

  • Subtle incapacitation - impaired alertness, reaction and decision-making.
  • Loss of situational awareness and vertigo.
  • Distraction due to impaired concentration.

Approach to medical certification

Aviation Medicine (AvMed) will always be concerned about signs of suspected or confirmed 'problematic use' of alcohol such as:

  • positive workplace test
  • Designated Aviation Medical Examiner (DAME) opinion
  • driving under the influence (DUI) conviction within five years of application
  • self-reported use and confirmatory blood tests. For example, liver function test (LFT), mean corpuscular volume (MCV) and carbohydrate-deficient transferrin (CDT).

The onus is on the applicant to demonstrate they have fulfilled the regulatory requirements. They should pay careful attention to any conditions requiring testing or reporting by a particular date, in the interests of aviation safety. Failure to submit tests and reports on time will be treated as indicators of possible relapse.

More likely to be certified

You are more likely to be certified or re-certified if you can show:

  • demonstrated absence of problematic use for a predefined period, this is usually a minimum of 12 months and includes sponsor and clinical reports
  • ongoing normal blood and breath-alcohol tests.

Less likely to be certified

You are less likely to be certified or re-certified if you have:

  • problematic use
  • two relapses following diagnosis
  • three or more alcohol-related convictions
  • abnormal blood or breath-alcohol tests
  • complications of alcohol-use. For example, psychiatric, portal hypertension, varices and clotting.

You are unique

The experiences of every person demonstrating problematic use of alcohol are different. CASA makes aeromedical decisions on a case by case basis. A particular assessment decision is based on the individual circumstances of the applicant under consideration.

Further information

For further information see:

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