How much alcohol is too much?

Exactly how much is 'too much' on a night out – or in? And how do you know if the amount you drink is harming your health?

Everyone reacts differently to alcohol. Your height, weight and gender are just some of the factors that play a part in how alcohol affects you. Even what you've had to eat that day or how much sleep you've had recently can make a difference to how you feel when you drink.

The guidelines

So, if you want to enjoy a drink and stay safe your best bet is to stick to the government’s lower risk guidelines. Regularly drinking more than this has an array of health risks attached.

"It doesn't make a difference if you're drinking every day or once a fortnight, exceeding the recommended guidelines is risky," says Dr Michael Wilks. "Saving up your weekly units so you can drink them all on a Friday night is not the way to interpret the government's advice."

What's a unit of alcohol?

It's all very well talking in units, but what does this really mean when you're on a night out at the pub or over dinner at home?

The size and strength of your drink will determine the number of units it contains. Unfortunately it's not as simple as one drink, one unit. A glass of wine can range between just over one unit and more than three units depending on the size of the glass and type of wine. And when you're drinking at home, you tend to pour measures that are larger than you get in your local.

So you could be regularly drinking far more than you think.

"Just because you're not always out 'getting drunk' don’t assume you're drinking at safe levels," says Dr Michael Wilks. "Heavy drinkers build up a tolerance.”

But isn't tolerance a good thing? Doesn't it mean you can drink more without it affecting you?

Find out how you can reset your tolerance here...

Dr Wilks continues:

“Building tolerance might mean that you don’t notice the effects so much, but the fact remains: the more you drink the greater the risk to your health. If you're building up tolerance, that is a warning sign.”

The animation below tells you all you need to know about alcohol units. 

 

Calculate your alcohol intake

Many people don't have a realistic idea of how much they're drinking. 

A good place to start is by finding out just how many units there are in your favourite tipple. Use our interactive unit calculator to work out and keep a track of your unit and calorie consumption from alcohol.

Arm yourself with the knowledge you need to enjoy a drink without putting your health at risk.

Are you drinking too much?

Find out how many units you are drinking

Compare your drinking to the government's lower risk guidelines.

Try our Unit Calculator

Take a drinking self assessment

Answer these simple questions and find out what kind of a relationship you have with alcohol.

Assess your drinking

Effects of drinking too much

Over-consumption of alcohol can affect your health in many ways.

Health effects of alcohol Effects on relationships The effects of alcohol on your child

Page updated: February 2014