December 4, 2023

Tips for avoiding drinking at events if you’re cutting back on alcohol this summer

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If you’re cutting down or cutting out alcohol but don’t know how to approach events where other people are drinking, check out our tips below.

More Australians are choosing not to drink

The fact is more Australians than ever are taking it easy.

There are less people drinking at risky levels, and many are taking action to reduce how much alcohol they drink.1

You might choose to put down the drink:

  • for your health
  • to cut back
  • because of an early morning start
  • to drive everyone home (designated driver)
  • because it doesn’t make you feel good
  • simply to have a night off.

While it is becoming more common not to drink, Australia’s drinking culture means that people can still feel pressured to drink. You may be repeatedly offered drinks or be tempted by being around others who are drinking.2

Tips for not drinking alcohol when out at events, parties or BBQs

Remember, you don’t need an excuse not to drink. It’s your choice.3

However, if you’re worried about being pressured to drink, here are some tips that can help:

Exercise before you go out: Exercise can put you in a good mood and give you a burst of energy that you can carry over to the event.4 If you’re choosing not to drink for health reasons, it’s also a great reminder of what you’re trying to achieve.

Plan your ‘no’ response in advance: It might be as simple as:

“No thanks.”

“I’m giving my liver a break.”

“I have to be up early in the morning, so I better not.”

“Have you tried dealing with my kids on a hangover?!”2, 3

Keep a non-alcoholic drink in your hand: It’s harder for people to offer you a drink if there is one in your hand already, and it’s less likely they will ask questions about why you’re not drinking.4

Avoid people who will tempt you: If there are people at the event who you know will encourage you to drink, think about avoiding them where possible.

Ask for support: Talk to your friends or family before the event about your goal of not drinking alcohol – their support can make the event much easier. They will have your back if other people question you for not drinking.4

Stay engaged: If you start feeling alienated being around people drinking, make sure you stay engaged. Avoid being glued to your phone. Start up a conversation, get some food and grab another (non-alcoholic) drink, or dance! (if dancing is your thing). 5, 6

Plan your exit: If you are finding it difficult to resist drinking or you are no longer having a good time, have your exit strategy sorted – for example, tell people you have to be up early in the morning, or that you’re not feeling well.

Keep motivated: Stay positive, remind yourself of all the great reasons why you don’t want to drink and how much better you will feel the next day.4

More information

Check out these articles for some more detailed tips:

If you are interested in cutting back on your alcohol consumption, talk to your doctor about some options and strategies going forward.

For more tips on cutting back, check out Little Habit - how to change.

  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2019. Canberra: AIHW; 2020.
  2. Rethinking Drinking - Alcohol & your health. Building your drink refusal skills: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services;  [cited 2020 4 December].
  3. Hello Sunday Morning. How to explain your alcohol choices: 8 creative excuses for not drinking, 2019 [cited 2020 4 December]. Available from:
  4. Hello Sunday Morning. Daybreak Resources: Hello Sunday Morning [cited 2020 7 December].
  5. Conroy D, de Visser R. Being a non-drinking student: An interpretative phenomenological analysis. Psychology & Health. 2014;29(5):536-51.
  6. SpunOut. How to avoid feeling awkward at a party when you're not drinking: SpunOut; 2017 [cited 2020 7 December]. Available from:

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