How Much Alcohol Should You Be Drinking? |

How Much Alcohol Should You Be Drinking?

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Who doesn’t enjoy a glass of wine in the evening? But between bottles of rosé at BBQs and post-work G&Ts, it all adds up. In January last year, the NHS ruled 14 units of alcohol the new weekly maximum for both men and women in order to keep health risks at a minimum, but it can be all too easy to overindulge. Read on to discover how to stay on track this summer...

First things first, what exactly is a unit of alcohol?

Units are a way of expressing the quantity of pure alcohol in a drink – one unit equals 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol, which is around the amount of alcohol the average adult can process in an hour. This means that within an hour there should be, in theory, little or no alcohol left in an adult’s blood (although this varies based on the individual).

And how many units should you be drinking?

Official health guidelines recommend that both men and women avoid drinking more than 14 units of alcohol per week. It is also advised to spread your consumption over several days rather than drinking the full ‘allowance’ in one go. However, research shows 15% of regular drinkers in the UK are classed as binge drinkers, roughly defined as drinking more than six units (or eight, for men) in a single session.

What are the effects of binge drinking?

Drinking a significant amount of alcohol in a short space of time is dangerous because your body can’t deal with it properly – your body has the ability to process one unit per hour, so drinking at a faster rate will raise your alcohol blood concentration and cause you to feel drunk quickly. Binge drinking can also be dangerous for your physical and mental health, triggering memory loss, low mood, aggression and accidents. Health experts agree that there is no safe level of drinking for either sex, and there is a lot of clinical evidence that the risk of developing a range of health problems (including cancers of the mouth, throat and breast) increases the more you drink on a regular basis.

On a Similar Note

Does binge drinking lead to alcohol dependency?

Not necessarily, but health experts agree that when problematic drinking habits (of which binge drinking is one) continue over a period of time, it leads to long-lasting electrical changes in the brain. These changes cause compulsive attitudes towards alcohol, which can lead to dependency.

So, what are the unit measurements of some popular drinks?

  • Single shot of spirit (e.g. single G&T) – 1 unit
  • Small 125ml glass red, white or rosé wine (ABV 12%) – 1.5 units
  • Bottle of lager/beer/cider – 1.7 units
  • Standard 175ml glass of red, white or rosé wine (ABV 12%) – 2.1 units
  • Large 250ml glass of red, white or rosé wine (ABV 12%) – 3 units
  • Pint of higher-strength lager/beer/cider (ABV 5.2%) – 3 units
  • 750ml bottle of Prosecco/Cava – 8.3 units
  • 750ml bottle of red, white or rosé wine (ABV 13.5%) – 10 units

And how can you cut back?

If you regularly drink 14-plus units per week or binge drink quite often (it’s surprisingly easy to slip past the recommended guidelines), it could be worth exploring your relationship with alcohol in a more thorough manner. If you find yourself turning to wine after a stressful day at the office, replace this with alternative ways to manage stress: go for a run, swim or to a yoga class, or talk to a friend about what’s worrying you. Also, keep track of what you’re drinking – your liver can’t explicitly tell you if you’re drinking too much but clever tracker can. Also, try to give alcohol-free days a go – if you drink regularly, your body starts to build up a tolerance to alcohol, which could lead to dependency.
If you’re concerned about your drinking habits or those of a loved one, Drinkline (0300 123 1110) runs a free, confidential helpline; also visit or email Alcoholics Anonymous on [email protected] for support.


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