When used safely, alcohol can be fun, sociable and enjoyable. It does have an impact on your health, so it is a good idea to know the effects alcohol can have, and the risks of drinking too much or too often. This page can help you learn how to minimise the risks and enjoy alcohol safely and responsibly.
Alcohol is measured in units and percentages. This system can make it difficult to work out how much alcohol you are having - the size of the drink doesn't give any clues to how many units it has, and drinks of the same type can have different units depending on the brand.
The Government's alcohol guidelines have changed because of new research about the health effects of drinking alcohol. The new guideline is the same for men and women.
No-one can say that drinking alcohol is absolutely safe, but by sticking within these guidelines, you can lower your risk of harming your health:
- Men and women are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week.
- Spread your drinking over three days or more if you drink as much as 14 units a week.
Everyone should have at least a couple of alcohol-free days (days when they don't drink at all) each week.
Remember you cannot save up your units from each day to have all in one go at the weekend - this is called binge drinking.
You can find more info on the new guidelines,, including a handy units calculator at Drink Aware.
If you are thinking about cutting down how much alcohol you drink the NHS Change4Life page has lots of helpful tips and information.
Alcohol & Driving
In 2014 the law changed in Scotland around drinking alcohol and driving.
The new limit is 50mg of alcohol in every 100ml of blood or 22 micrograms of alcohol in 100ml of breath. Even if you’re under the limit your ability to drive safely can be impaired. Without using a breathaliser it's impossible to know how much alcohol is in your system. Alcohol affects everyone differently, so it is hard to know when you are safe to drive. The safest way is not to drink at all if you need to drive.
If you are going to be drinking it’s important to know how much you’ve had to drink and when the alcohol should be out of your system. You need to bear this in mind if you are planning to drive the morning after drinking.
This tool can help you work out when the alcohol should be out of your system. WARNING: This tool is only a guide. For the average person a unit of alcohol will take 1 hour to leave the body. However this is affected by body weight, gender, strength of the drinks, how much you’ve eaten and how fast you drank. Only you are responsible for deciding how soon it is safe for you to drive after drinking.
Ways to make drinking healthier:
- Drink a bit less on each occasion
- Sometimes don't drink at all
- Drink better quality products
- Drink in the right context - not as the main activity
- Drink for the right reasons, not to drown your sorrows
- Respect those who choose not to drink at all
How do I know if I drink too much?
You can use the tool below to find out if your drinking is affecting your health. If you're worried about your own drinking, or if you're worried about someone you know, you can contact any of the services below to ask for help: