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Sensible drinking

Drinking moderate amounts of alcohol doesn't often cause any serious problems. However, drinking too much can be harmful. You may not realise if the amount you drink is more than the recommended daily limit, so it's important that you keep an eye on how much you're drinking.

Recommended limits

Medical advice recommends that:

  • men should not drink more than three to four units of alcohol per day
  • women should drink no more than two to three units of alcohol per day
Women who drink heavily on a regular basis are more likely than men to damage their health. That's why the recommended drinking guidelines are different for men and women.

What is a unit of alcohol?

One unit of alcohol is equivalent to 10 ml of pure alcohol.

You can find out exactly how many units of alcohol are in what you're drinking by checking the label, or you can use the Public Health Agency's unit calculator on the Know Your Limits website to find out how many units are in different alcoholic drinks.

This will help you get an idea of how many units you are actually drinking.

How long alcohol stays in your bloodstream

On average, the body can break down alcohol at a rate of one unit per hour depending on:

  • your weight
  • your sex
  • your age
  • your metabolism
  • your stress levels
  • the amount of food you have eaten
  • medication taken
  • type of alcohol consumed

If you get drunk, avoid alcohol for 48 hours afterwards to give your body time to recover.

When not to drink

You shouldn't drink if a doctor or other health professional has advised you to stop. You should also avoid alcohol:

  • before or when driving
  • before or when operating machinery and equipment
  • if you are taking part in active sport
  • if you are trying to become pregnant
  • if you are pregnant

Health risks

The misuse and abuse of alcohol can lead to a wide range of health problems. In the short term it may cause you to experience drowsiness, tension, dehydration, or unconsciousness.

Long term, it is known to contribute to more serious health problems, including liver damage, cancer, heart disease or even death.

Getting support and treatment

As well as your local doctor, there are a range of local support organisations that can offer information, advice and guidance as well as treatment and support.

You can find information on alcohol support services in your area at the link below:

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