Drink less

Drinking too much can affect your health. It can be tricky to understand and remember how much alcohol is in each drink. Most people will need the right support to maintain control in the future. It’s not enough to only rely on family, friends or carers.

The UK Chief Medical Officers’ low risk drinking guidelines recommend:

  • you drink less than 14 units per week
  • if you do drink as much as 14 units per week, spread this evenly over three days or more. My Drinkaware App helps you to track the units and calories you consume and how much you spend
  • the risk of developing a range of illnesses (including, for example, cancers of the mouth, throat and breast) increases with any amount you drink on a regular basis
  • a good way to cut down the amount you drink is to have several drink-free days each week. NHS Drink free days app helps you keep track
  • pregnant women or those who are planning to be pregnant, not to drink alcohol at all. If you drink alcohol while pregnant it can lead to long-term harm to the baby. The more you drink the greater the risk.

What is a unit

Different drinks vary hugely in the amount of alcohol they contain. A single drink can be anything from 1 unit to 4.5 units, depending on the size, strength and type of drink.

One drink does not just equal one unit. If you choose drinks with higher amounts of alcohol, then as few as four drinks a week could mean you are drinking above the guidelines.

One unit is 10ml (or 8g) of pure alcohol. The amount of alcohol in a drink is described as “ABV”, which means alcohol by volume.

You can work out how many units there are in a drink by:

  • multiplying the total volume of a drink (in ml) by its ABV and
  • dividing the result by 1000.

So, in a standard 175ml glass of wine which is 13% ABV:

  • 175 (ml) x 13 (ABV) ÷ 1000 = 2.3 units
  • 6 glasses a week would be the recommended amount.

For a 330ml small can of 5% ABV popular lager:

  • 330 (ml) x 5 (ABV) ÷ 1000 = 1.65 units per can
  • 8 ½ cans per week is the recommended amount.

And for a larger 440 ml can of 5% ABV popular lager:

  • 440 (ml) x 5 (ABV) ÷ 1000 = 2.2 units per can
  • Just over 6 cans per week is the recommended amount.

Use the Alcohol Change UK – unit calculator to find out how many units you are drinking.

It takes an average adult around an hour to process one unit of alcohol. This varies from person to person and depends on the enzymes in your liver working on breaking down the alcohol.

If you are going to drive the next day, check out Drinkaware’s tips on driving the morning after drinking to make sure you are not putting yourself and others at risk.