How much can I drink?

Most people want to enjoy alcohol in moderation, but what does that mean in practice?

Well, no amount of alcohol consumption is completely safe, however by sticking within these guidelines, you can lower your risk of harming your health.

  • Both men and women are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week
  • Don't 'save up' your 14 units for 1-2 days - spread your drinking throughout the week
  • Try and have 3-4 days in the week when you don't drink at all

 If you want to cut down on your drinking, a good way to help achieve this is to have several drink-free days each week.

Drinking on single occasions

Drinking too much in one go can lead to accidents, injury, misjudging risky situations and losing self-control. You can reduce these risks by:

  • limiting the total amount of alcohol you drink on any occasion 
  • drinking more slowly, drinking with food, and alternating alcoholic drinks with water
  • avoiding risky places and activities, making sure you have people you know around, and ensuring you can get home safely

Pregnancy and drinking alcohol

Doctors recommends that if you’re pregnant, or planning to become pregnant, you should avoid alcohol altogether to keep risks to your baby to a minimum. Drinking in pregnancy can lead to long-term harm to the baby, with the more you drink the greater the risk. 

How many units in a drink?

A single unit of alcohol would equal for example ½ a pint of lager (3.5% ABV), or a small (125ml) glass of wine (10% ABV), or a small (25ml) glass of spirits Other typical drinks would equal in units: 

  • One pint of 4.5% beer - 2.6 units
  • A medium glass of 12% wine - 2.1 units
  • A double shot (50ml) of spirits - 2 units
  • A small (330ml) bottle of alcopops - 1.7 units

Higher strength drinks have higher alcohol by volume (ABV) - and so are stronger in alcohol, contain more units and more calories.  



New guidelines

Drinking within guidelines

A handy guide for safer drinking would be to drink 2-3 drinks, 2-3 times a week. Your average drink is 2-3 units, so if you have 2 drinks, you're having 4-6 units each time.

If you lower the strength of your drink that also helps. Go for a 3.5% lager, rather than a 5% one, or an 11% glass of wine, rather than a 14% one. Just check the label to see the %abv.  

Risk levels

The health risks start to increase when you go over the lower-risk guidelines. If you're drinking at high risk levels, you're increasing your risk of heart disease, cancer and hypertension. 

High Risk Drinking

Drinking over 35 units a week as a woman, or over 50 units a week as a man, puts your health at High Risk of harm and disease.  

The risk of developing a range of illnesses (including, for example, cancers of the mouth, throat and breast) increases with any amount you drink on a regular basis.

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