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 government advises that people should not regularly drink more than the daily unit guidelines of 3-4 units of alcohol for men (equivalent to a pint and a half of 4% beer) and 2-3 units of alcohol for women (equivalent to a 175 ml glass of wine). 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?
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.”
What is a unit?
Calculate your alcohol intake
Many people don't have a realistic idea of how much they're drinking. In fact, Drinkaware's research shows that eight out of 10 people are unsure of the number of units the government states people should not regularly exceed.
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 daily unit 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
Page updated: June 2013
Did you know?
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Daily unit guidelines
You should not regularly exceed:Find out how many units are in your favourite drink