Are you drinking more than before?
Drinking more, more regularly means your alcohol tolerance grows, which isn't a good thing. Find out how you can reset your tolerance and drink at less harmful levels again.
- Building tolerance
- Alcohol dependence
- Getting back on track
- Reset your tolerance
- It's time to tackle your tolerance if...
Everybody changes over time – and your drinking patterns probably have too. Once, you might have drunk alcohol while out on the town. Now, because of the demands of a career and maybe a family, you could be spending more time at home. But even though you’re going out less – you still may be drinking over the government's daily unit guidelines. 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’ means drinking every day or most days of the week.
Many people find that their drinking patterns have changed for the better and their tolerance to alcohol remains the same. But if you regularly drink too much alcohol, your tolerance grows. This means you need to consume more to get the same effects.
“It’s undoubtedly the case that if you’re drinking on a regular basis, then the amount of alcohol you need to get the same click or buzz gradually goes up,” says Dr Nick Sheron, a liver specialist from Southampton University.
So, if your brain has got used to a certain level of stimulation, you won’t get that same ‘buzz’ if you drink less.
“It’s exactly the same as being a heavy heroin user, you could cope with larger quantities of heroin than someone who’d never used it before. It’s the same biological process,” he explains.
If you think your tolerance is rising, then think about whether you could be becoming dependent on alcohol to unwind after work, or to socialise with friends.
“People tend to thing of alcohol dependency as a black and white thing,” says Dr Sheron. “They think they know what it looks like. But everybody who is drinking on a regular basis, reasonably heavily will have a degree of alcohol dependence.
“That might be manifested as the idea that you can’t conceive of going out and having a good night out without having a few drinks. Or you have people who can have a few drinks and then they can’t stop drinking. We see people around us doing this all the time. But we don’t think they’re dependent on alcohol.”
Getting back on track
The good news is that there’s plenty you can do to get your mind and body back on track – and getting back in balance is easier than you think. Start the process by taking steps to stick within the daily unit guidelines.
Staying within the guidelines not only lowers the risk of contracting alcohol related illness or disease in the future, it can also improve your quality of sleep and help you feel more positive and productive. If you need some guidance, we’re here to help with a whole range of tips and advice and tracking your drinking has never been easier than with our brand new MyDrinkaware personal alcohol tool.
If you’ve got into a habit of regularly drinking more than the daily unit guidelines, it’s worth applying a bit of psychology too. See what triggers your desire to drink too much and try to change your response.
For instance, if dinner parties have you repeatedly reaching for the corkscrew – try a low alcohol alternative instead.
Feeling stressed out? Talk to your partner or a friend about how you’re feeling rather than reaching for the bottle.
Reset your tolerance
If your tolerance rises, and you drink more and more to get the same effect you once got from one glass of wine, then you could be heading into dangerous ground.
Luckily, if you think your tolerance is rising, fighting back is simple: just give your body a break from alcohol with some alcohol-free days each week.
“For most people, you can ‘reset’ your whole system by having an alcohol-free period,” says Sheron.
“And people feel better for it. I can tell as soon as they walk through the door by their facial appearance. The difference is dramatic.”
Once you’ve reset your tolerance you won’t need as much alcohol to feel the effects. This makes it far easier to drink more sensibly. If you’ve fallen into a pattern of heavier drinking, having a break also gives you the opportunity to build new, more positive drinking patterns based around the government's daily unit guidelines.
It's time to tackle your tolerance if...
1. You’re taking two bottles of wine to the dinner party in case you run out.
2. The amount of wine in your weekly shop is increasing.
3. You’re starting to finish off an evening of drinking with a night cap.
4. You buy bigger glasses.
5. You’re drinking more than the daily unit guidelines most nights of the week.
Page updated: April 2013
Did you know?
More than 1 in 10 deaths of people in their 40s are from liver disease, most are from alcoholic liver diseaseAlcohol and the liver
Calculate your calories
Find out how many calories are in your drinksTry our unit calculator
- How much is too much for under 18s to drink?
- Your alcohol risk level
- Binge drinking
- Alcohol support services
- Am I alcohol dependent?