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Government guidelines

Government advice on sensible drinking for adults

14 units of alcohol per week for both men and women
UK drinking guidelines for women uk drinking guidelines for men

How alcohol effects us depends on many factors such as your age, size, sex and health. How quickly you drink, and whether it is with food or on an empty stomach, also effects how quickly you absorb alcohol.

8th January 2016 the UK Chief Medical Officers changed their guidelines for low risk drinking.The Government looks at the risks and benefits of drinking alcohol and has been able to draw up safe or low risk guidelines for alcohol consumption. These are, for healthy adults, 14 units per week. The guidelines state that 'if you do drink as much as 14 units per week, it is best to spread this evenly over 3 days or more'. Click here for more information

You should not 'save up' units and drink heavily at the weekends. This has become known as binge drinking. Binge drinking over one or two nights a week can lead to health problems and anti-social behaviour. The latest guidelines from The Chief Medical Officer recommend that "To keep short term health risks from single drinking occasions to a low level, men and women can: limit the total amount of alcohol consumed on any occasion; drink more slowly, with food, and alternating with water.

how many units in a drinkWhat is a unit of alcohol?

A unit is 8g or 10 ml of pure alcohol - that is half a pint of average strength beer, or a single shot of vodka - a 175ml glass of wine at 12% will contain 2 units. Your body (mainly your liver) takes about an hour to break down a unit of alcohol.

Is the evidence base really shifting for low risk drinking guidelines? Creina Stockley, Health & Regulatory Information Manager, The Australian Wine Research Institute

Why not try the UNIT CALCULATORS
to see how many units your favourite drinks contain?

drinkaware drink calculator

Does alcohol affect men and women differently?

Women's bodies are generally smaller and have less body water, so alcohol concentrations rise more quickly. So, if a woman weighing 60 kgs drinks a double vodka then a man of the same size will need to drink a triple in order to reach the same blood alcohol level. There is also some evidence that women break down alcohol slightly differently. The enzyme ADH breaks down alcohol in the liver and in the lining of the stomach; and women have less of it, so alcohol is broken down more slowly.

When not to drink

Official drinking guidelines are issued by governments and public health to advise on levels of alcohol consumption considered 'safe', 'responsible,' or 'low risk'. They do not apply to those under the legal drinking age (age 18) or to pregnant women. Those on medication or with a history of illness should consult their general practitioner or specific advice. For religious or health reasons nearly half of adults around the world choose not to drink (45%).

Responsible drinking means drinking enjoyably, sociably and moderately and includes not drinking at all in situations when the effects of alcohol will put your own or someone's safety or health at risk. So don’t:

alcohol packaging label



Most drinks now contains unit information on the back label helping you choose lower alcohol options and to know how many units are in a typical glass as well as the whole container

  • Drink and drive
  • Operate machinery, use electrical equipment or work at heights after drinking
  • Drink heavily before playing sport
  • Drink while on certain medications - ask your Doctor if you are unsure
  • Binge drink - it can lead to health and social problems
  • Drink when pregnant

Information on sensible drinking guidelines worldwide

What is Alcohol? (Click for more information)

Guidance for teenagers in the UK

In 2009, advice (aimed at parents) was documented by the Chief Medical Officer. Read the Chief Medical Officer's guidelines for young people (under 18) on drinking alcohol.

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