Am I a safe drinker?

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What are the recommended safe limits of alcohol drinking?

  • Men should drink no more than 21 units of alcohol per week (and no more than four units in any one day).
  • Women should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week (and no more than three units in any one day).
  • Pregnant women. The exact amount that is safe is not known. Therefore, advice from the Department of Health is that pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant should not drink at all. If you do choose to drink when you are pregnant then limit it to one or two units, once or twice a week. And never get drunk.

In general, the more you drink above the safe limits, the more harmful alcohol is likely to be. And remember, binge drinking can be harmful even though the weekly total may not seem too high. For example, if you only drink once or twice a week, but when you do you drink 4-5 pints of beer each time, or a bottle of wine each time, then this is a risk to your health. Also, even one or two units can be dangerous if you drive, operate machinery, or take some types of medication.

 

What is a unit of alcohol?

One unit of alcohol is 10 ml (1 cl) by volume, or 8 g by weight, of pure alcohol. For example:

  • One unit of alcohol is about equal to:
    • half a pint of ordinary strength beer, lager, or cider (3-4% alcohol by volume), or
    • a small pub measure (25 ml) of spirits (40% alcohol by volume), or
    • a standard pub measure (50 ml) of fortified wine such as sherry or port (20% alcohol by volume)
    • There are one and a half units of alcohol in:
      • a small glass (125 ml) of ordinary strength wine (12% alcohol by volume), or
      • a standard pub measure (35 ml) of spirits (40% alcohol by volume)

But remember, many wines and beers are stronger than the more traditional ordinary strengths. A more accurate way of calculating units is as follows. The percentage alcohol by volume (% abv) of a drink equals the number of units in one litre of that drink. For example:

  • Strong beer at 6% abv has six units in one litre. If you drink half a litre (500 ml) - just under a pint - then you have had three units.
  • Wine at 14% abv has 14 units in one litre. If you drink a quarter of a litre (250 ml) - two small glasses - then you have had three and a half units.

 

Some other examples

Three pints of beer, three times per week, is at least 18-20 units per week. That is nearly the upper weekly safe limit for a man. However, each drinking session of three pints is at least six units, which is more than the safe limit advised for any one day.

Another example: a 750 ml bottle of 12% wine contains nine units. If you drink two bottles of 12% wine over a week, which is 18 units. This is above the upper safe limit for a woman.

 

Isn't alcohol good for you?

For men aged over 40 and for women past the menopause, it is thought that drinking a small amount of alcohol (1-2 units per day) helps to protect against heart disease and stroke.

 

Do you know how much you are drinking?

When asked 'How much do you drink?' many people give a much lower figure than the true amount. It is not that people usually lie about this, but it is easy not to realise your true alcohol intake. To give an honest answer to this question, try making a drinking diary for a couple of weeks or so. Jot down every drink that you have. Remember, it is a pub measure of spirits that equals one unit. A home measure is often a double.

If you are drinking more than the safe limits, you should aim to cut down your drinking.

For more information visit:   Patient.co.uk


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The Have I Got A Problem website is a free online resource to help people better understand any issues or concerns they may have about mental health or addiction. The website includes resources specifically focused to; general Mental Health, Depression, Stress, Anxiety, Insecurities, Self-harm Schizophrenia, Bipolar, Anger Management, Eating Disorders, Coping, general Addiction, Alcohol, Smoking, Gambling, Drugs, Cocaine, Heroin, Marijuana (Cannabis) Ecstasy, PCP, Mephedrone, Ketamine & Crystal Meth.

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