Drinking increasingly greater amounts and more frequently can increase our tolerance for alcohol, which can be harmful to our health and lead to dependence. This is because the more alcohol we drink, our bodies adjust and the more likely it is that we will need to drink more each time to feel the same effects. And the more alcohol we drink, the greater our risk of a range of health harms including seven types of cancer.
Take our online self-assessment to check if the amount that you’re drinking could be damaging your health.
How to reduce the health risks from drinking
The UK’s Chief Medical Officers advise that, in order to keep the health risks from alcohol to a low level, men and women should not regularly drink more than 14 units a week. If you regularly drink as much as this, it’s safest to spread your drinking evenly over three or more days.
The risk of developing a range of health problems increases the more you drink on a regular basis.
A good way to cut down the amount you drink, and to reset your alcohol tolerance, is to have several drink-free days each week.
Find out how to increase your drink-free days.
If you think your tolerance for alcohol is increasing or has increased, you could be at risk of becoming dependent on alcohol.
Being dependent on alcohol means a person may feel they’re not able to function or survive without it, that they have a strong desire to drink alcohol daily and have increasing difficulty in controlling how much they drink and drinking becomes an important part of their life.
It might be surprising to hear that you don’t have to be drinking to extreme levels to become dependent on alcohol.
Important: If you have physical symptoms, for example, shaking, sweating or nausea before you have your first drink of the day, you could be experiencing symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. That could mean you are seriously dependent on alcohol. In this situation it can be dangerous to stop drinking completely or too quickly without medical support.
Find out more about the signs and symptoms of alcohol dependence.
Getting back on track
Start the process by taking steps to stick within the low risk drinking guidelines. Remember, the advice for both men and women is not to drink more than 14 units a week – this is about equivalent to six pints of beer or six medium (175ml) glasses of wine. And if you drink as much as that, spread the units over three or more days.
You can also try keeping track of what triggers your desire to drink and find ways to change your habits. For example, if you pour a drink to relieve stress or boredom, delay it by doing something else and see if you still want the drink later. Or, if you have wine with your meals every day, swap it for an alcohol-free alternative.
Tracking your drinking is simple with our free Drinkaware: Track and Calculate Units app.
Want to speak to someone about alcohol?
Drinkchat is our free online chat service. Our trained advisors are on hand between 10am-2pm, Monday to Friday, to provide confidential advice.
Chat with an advisor
If you can’t contact Drinkchat in those hours, or would prefer to talk to someone on the phone, you can call Drinkline on 0300 123 1110 (weekdays 9am–8pm, weekends 11am–4pm) and speak to a trained adviser.