Drinkaware is an independent charity working to reduce alcohol misuse and harm in the UK. We're here to help people make better choices about drinking.
Everyone responds to alcohol differently. 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 can make a difference to how you feel when you drink.
To keep health risks from alcohol low, the UK Chief Medical Officers' (CMO) low risk drinking guidelines advise it is safest not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis.
The more alcohol you drink the greater your risk of developing both short and long term health issues. And it's not just your liver you need to be worried about. Alcohol consumption is also linked to a number of serious health conditions including heart problems, high blood pressure, poor mental health, and seven types of cancer.
Following the CMOs' advice
Saving up your weekly units so you can drink them all on a Friday night is not the way to interpret the CMOs' advice.
If you do drink as much as 14 units a week it’s best to spread your intake evenly across the week. If you regularly drink as much as 14 units per week, it's best to spread your drinking evenly over three or more days.
A good way to cut down the overall amount you drink is to take more Drink Free Days during the week. That's why we've created a tool that lets you check your drinking, provides information about your risks and gives advice based on your results.
It's not as simple as one drink, one unit.
The size and strength of your drink will determine the number of units it contains. 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 people who choose to drink at home tend to pour measures that are larger than you get at a pub, bar or restaurant. So you could be regularly drinking far more than you think.
A great way to avoid losing track of how much alcohol you’re pouring out at home is to use one of our Unit Measure Cups.
It’s important not to assume that, even if you aren’t regularly ‘getting drunk’, that you are drinking within the low risk guidelines. People who drink regularly build up a tolerance. This might mean that you notice the effects of alcohol less but the fact is that the more you drink the greater the risk to your health. If you are building up tolerance that could be an early sign of alcohol dependence. If you think you might be dependent on alcohol, or if you have physical withdrawal symptoms (e.g. shaking, sweating, nausea before you have your first drink of the day) then you should seek medical advice from your GP before you stop drinking.
Find out more about how taking a break from alcohol can reset your tolerance.
Many people don't have a realistic idea of how much they're drinking and whether it is within the low risk drinking guidelines.
A good place to start is by finding out just how many units there are in your drinks.
Want to speak to someone about alcohol?
We run a confidential online instant messaging service where you can chat to a trained advisor if you are worried about your own or someone else's drinking.