Binge Drinking


How much alcohol can I drink safely?

The Department of Health advises that men should not drink more than 3-4 units of alcohol per day, and women should drink no more than 2-3 units of alcohol per day.

What is a unit of alcohol?

A unit of alcohol is 10ml of pure alcohol.  Counting units of alcohol can help us keep track of the amount we’re drinking.  The list below shows the approximate number of units of alcohol in common drinks:

A pint of ordinary (4%) strength lager (eg Carling Black Label, Fosters)-2.3 units

A pint of strong lager (eg Stella Artois, Kronenbourg 1664)-3 units

A pint of beer/ordinary strength ale (eg John Smith’s, Boddington, Guinness)-2.3 units

A pint of ordinary strength cider (Dry Blackthorn, Strongbow)-3 units

A standard 175ml glass of red or white wine –approx 3 units

A small (25ml) measure of spirits – 1 unit

A 275ml bottled alcopop (eg Smirnoff Ice, Barcardi Breezer, WKD, Reef) – 1.5 units

What are the immediate effects of alcohol?

Alcohol is a drug.  Its immediate effect is to alter mood.  Because drinking makes people feel relaxed and happy, many find it surprising to learn that alcohol is in fact a depressant drug.  Because of this it switches off or dulls the part of the brain that controls judgement, leading to a loss of inhibitions.

Alcohol also affects physical co-ordination.  The more drinks you have the greater the effect – speech becomes slurred, vision blurred, balance is lost and movements are clumsy.  Heavy drinking will depress all bodily functions, so drinking very large quantities can result in unconsciousness, vomiting while unconscious or in heavy sleep can cause death by asphyxiation.

What are the long term effects of excessive alcohol consumption?

Excessive alcohol can cause damage to many of the organs of the body.  Potential harmful effects include weight problems, upset stomach, headaches, anxiety, stress, depression, poor concentration, difficulty in sleeping and raised blood pressure.

More serious effects include accidents and injuries, liver disease, cancers (especially of the mouth and throat), strokes, memory loss, sexual difficulties.  Some of these problems will get better of cut down or stop drinking, so it is never too late to change.

Tips for cutting down when on a night out

Cutting down on alcohol doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your social life; try these out when you’re next out.

1. Beware of rounds

Drinking in rounds may be a British tradition, but they can be expensive, dangerous if it means keeping pace with the fastest drinker in your group and a nightmare if you’re trying to cut down on alcohol. Stay in control (and save cash) by opting for smaller rounds with only a couple of friends within your group or giving rounds a miss.

2. Eat up

After-the-pub, grub is another drinking tradition, but why wait until the night’s nearly over to load up on fast food? A healthy meal before you go out, and snacks between drinks can help to slow down the absorption of alcohol and so helps you stay in control. With less alcohol inside you that greasy pizza or kebab will look a lot less appetising at chucking out time too.

3. Track your drinking on the go

If you’re out and about use our free and simple MyDrinkaware tool on your smartphone to track the alcohol you’re drinking. It will help you stay within the daily unit guidelines and stay on top of your night out.

4. Small is better

Make the daily unit guidelines go further by having bottles of beer or halves instead of pints and choosing a smaller glass for your wine. Buying spritzers or shandies will also help keep that unit count down.

5. Make space

Sipping a soft drink between alcoholic drinks slows down the rate of your drinking and means you’ll drink less over the course of the evening. If you’re out clubbing, take a bottle of water out with you and on the dance floor.   Choose a non-alcoholic mocktail, a premium soft drink, or a glass of water.

Need further information?

Binge drinking information leaflet.