Alcohol awareness week: seven commonly asked questions about alcohol

Date Published

11th November 2019



It’s Alcohol Awareness Week, so Drinkaware has put together seven of the most commonly asked questions about alcohol.

1. What’s a unit?

A unit is 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol. Each alcoholic drink varies in strength, but typically, a medium glass of wine is 2.3 units, a pint of beer is 2.3 units and single measure of spirits (25ml) is one unit.

Alcohol units by drink types

2. How much should I drink each week?

The recommended guidelines suggest you drink no more than 14 units of alcohol, spread over a week. That’s about six medium glasses of wine, or six pints of beer. And it’s the same for men and women.

3. How long does it take to process alcohol in the body?

It takes the average adult one hour to process one unit of alcohol. This is why drinking lots of alcohol over a short period of time can make you drunk. It’s also why many people don’t realise they can be over the drink-drive limit the morning after they drink.

4. Can alcohol help me sleep?

Alcohol may help you drop off to sleep but it lowers the quality of your sleep, meaning you spend more time in deep sleep and less time in the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) phase, which is more restorative. This can leave you feeling sluggish the next day and unable to focus; lacking in energy both in and out of work. It can also make you more prone to anxiety and depressive thoughts. Read more about alcohol and sleep.

5. Is alcohol fattening?

Alcohol has almost the same calories per gram than pure fat. A pint of beer can have as many calories as a slice of pizza, and a large glass of white wine could be the same as an ice cream cone.

Alcohol contains seven calories per gram, compared to protein and carbohydrate which have around four calories per gram and fat which has nine. What’s more, calories in alcohol are considered ‘empty’ calories, as they don’t provide any nutrients. Read more about alcohol and calories.

6. What are the short-term health effects of alcohol?

Here are just a few of the short-term health effects of drinking alcohol:

Irritates the stomach causing vomiting and potentially choking
Slows brain function (losing sense of balance)
Lowers body temperature, which can lead to hypothermia
Causes dehydration leading to brain damage in extreme cases
Can upset the heart rhythm and suppress breathing

7. What are the long-term health impacts of alcohol?

The more you drink, the more at risk you are of long-term health issues such as liver disease, certain cancers, diabetes, blood pressure and heart conditions. Drinking alcohol above the recommended guidelines can also have a long-term impact on your mental health and your skin.

One of the most simple and effective ways to improve your health and wellbeing is to have several drink-free days each week. Drinkaware’s online calculator can support you cut back with tailored information and plans while the Drinkaware app is a tool that helps you track your drinking and set goals.


References available.