Most people either drink at safe levels or do not drink alcohol. Around 24% of the population in England drink at increasing or high risk levels.
Why should we worry about the amount of alcohol we drink?
In 2014, there were 6,831 deaths which were related to drinking alcohol, a number that is increasing. 10.8 million people in England are drinking at levels that could harm their health.
Harmful drinking of alcohol can cause cancer including liver, stomach, mouth, bowel and breast cancers. It can also cause liver disease, heart disease, strokes and it is linked with mental health problems from depression to suicide.
How much alcohol should we drink?
- To keep health risks from drinking alcohol to a low level, you are safest whether you are a man or a woman, not regularly drinking more than 14 units per week.
- If you do drink as much as 14 units per week, it is best to spread this evenly over three days or more, not drinking them all on one occasion.
- If you are pregnant you should not drink any alcohol.
- Many people don’t realise that alcohol is high in calories. If you want to lose weight and have a balanced diet you should look carefully at the calories in alcohol.
- If you want to cut down, try to have several drink-free days each week.
What does one unit of alcohol look like?
- 218 ml (less than half a pint) of standard 4.5% cider
- 76ml of standard 13% wine
- A single 25ml measure of 40% whisky
- 250ml (around half a pint) of standard 4% beer
- 250ml (less than a bottle) of standard 4% alcopop
Here are some examples:
A woman who drinks around three bottles of 11% alcohol wine a week - around two large 175ml glasses of wine per day - increases the risks to her health. A woman who drinks four or five bottles of 11% alcohol wine - around three large 175ml glasses of wine per day or more - has a high risk of harming her health.
A man who drinks between five and 17 pints of strong beer, lager or cider at 5% alcohol per week - around 1 to 2.5 pints per day - increases the risks to his health. A man who drinks over 17 pints per week of strong beer, lager or cider at 5% alcohol per week - over two - three pints per day or more - has high risk of harming his health.
What is lower risk drinking?
All drinking carries some kind of risk because humans were not designed to drink alcohol! Lower risk drinking, is drinking 14 units or less per week for both males and females. However, you can reduce these risks by:
- limiting the total amount of alcohol you drink on any occasion
- drinking more slowly, drinking with food, and alternating alcoholic drinks with water
- avoiding risky places and activities, making sure you have people you know around you and ensuring you can get home safely
The morning after
Lots of people don’t realise just how long it takes alcohol to leave your body after drinking. If you drink one bottle of wine it can take up to 13 hours before you would be safe to drive. It is recommended that you have no alcohol in your body when you drive. Alcohol breaks down at roughly one unit per hour. You should start counting when you finish drinking and add one hour.
You can find out more and download a morning after drinking app.
NHS Choices tips on cutting down on alcohol.
Public Health England One You effects of alcohol.
Local sources of information and support
Inclusion: Cambridgeshire‘s Drug and Alcohol Treatment Services, for information about where you can get advice and support.
Casus: Cambridgeshire's child and adolescent substance use service, for information, support and specialist treatment.
Harmful levels of drinking is sometimes linked to other issues such as domestic abuse. Find out more.