Safe drinking

Recommended safe limits of drinking

Men should drink no more than 21 units of alcohol per week and no more than 3-4 units of alcohol regularly in any one day.

Women should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week and no more than 2-3 units of alcohol regularly in any one day.

Pregnant women and women trying to conceive should not drink alcohol at all. If, however, you do choose to drink alcohol when pregnant, you shouldn’t drink more than 1 or 2 units once or twice a week, and you should never get drunk. There is also evidence that drinking during pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage, particularly in the first three months of pregnancy.

Alcohol should also be avoided if you are taking certain types of medication. Always refer to the instructions included with the medication.

While these are recommended safe limits of drinking, alcohol affects people in different ways. The effects of drinking alcohol can depend on your weight, height, if you haven’t eaten and whether you’re used to drinking alcohol or not. And of course even one unit of alcohol can be dangerous if you operate machinery or drive after drinking. Furthermore, binge-drinking (consuming more than the daily safe limits of alcohol) can be extremely harmful even if your weekly total of units is below the recommended safe limit.

What is a unit of alcohol?

One unit is 10ml or 8 grams of pure alcohol. It can be difficult to gauge how many units you’re consuming as different drinks have different strengths, known as alcohol by volume (abv), but below is a rough guide.

125ml (small glass) of 12% abv wine = 1.5 units
175ml (large glass) of 12% abv wine = approximately 2 units
One pint of 3-4% abv beer, cider or lager = 2 units
One pint of strong beer (6% abv) = 3 units
25ml (single pub measure) of 40% abv spirit = 1 unit
50ml (standard pub measure) of sherry or port = 1 unit

Do be aware though that drinks poured at home tend to be more generous than standard pub measures.

When does safe drinking become problem drinking?

Safe drinking becomes problem drinking when you regularly exceed the recommended safe limits of alcohol, when you binge-drink or frequently drink daily. Many people drink above the safe limit but, fortunately, this doesn’t necessarily mean they are addicted to alcohol or that they are alcoholics. Most people who drink above the safe limits can stop drinking without professional help. But drinking heavily, while not being addicted to alcohol, still has serious health risks, including liver disease and mental health problems. And alcohol is highly addictive so problem drinking can quickly become alcohol dependence and alcoholism.

If you’re concerned that you or someone you know is regularly drinking above the safe limits of alcohol, call us on 0808 163 9519 and we’ll give you the advice and help you need.


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