The Risk of Drinking Too Much


Regularly drinking more than 14 units of alcohol a week risks damaging your health.

The recommended weekly limit of 14 units is equivalent to 6 pints of average-strength beer or 10 small glasses of low-strength wine. New evidence around the health harms from regular drinking have emerged in recent years and there's now a better understanding of the link between drinking and some illnesses, including a range of cancers.

The previously held position that some level of alcohol was good for the heart has been revised. It's now thought that the evidence on a protective effect from moderate drinking is less strong than previously thought.

Low-risk drinking advice

To keep health risks from alcohol to a low level if you drink most weeks:

  • men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis 
  • spread your drinking over 3 or more days if you regularly drink as much as 14 units a week
  • if you want to cut down, try to have several drink-free days each week

If you're pregnant or think you could become pregnant, the safest approach is not to drink alcohol at all to keep risks to your baby to a minimum.

No 'safe' drinking level

If you drink less than 14 units a week, this is considered low-risk drinking. It's called "low risk" rather than "safe" because there's no safe drinking level.

The type of illnesses you can develop after 10 to 20 years of regularly drinking more than 14 units a week include:

  • cancers of the mouth, throat and breast
  • stroke
  • heart disease
  • liver disease
  • brain damage
  • damage to the nervous system

There's also evidence that regular drinking at high-risk levels can make your mental health worse. Research has found strong links between alcohol misuse and self-harming, including suicide, suggesting that regular drinking at high-risk levels can make your mental health worse.

The effects of alcohol on your health will also depend on how much you drink; the less you drink, the lower the health risks.

'Single session' drinking

Drinking too much too quickly on any single occasion (commonly known as 'binge drinking' can increase your risk of:

  • accidents resulting in injury, causing death in some cases
  • misjudging risky situations
  • losing self-control, like having unprotected sex or getting involved in violence

To reduce your health risks on any single session:

  • limit how much you drink 
  • drink more slowly
  • drink with food
  • alternate with water or non-alcoholic drinks

For more help or information take the online assessment or call 01392 908 139.

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Daniel's Story

Daniel was referred to OneSmallStep through his community enabler to reduce his alcohol intake

Sometimes it has been hard to come but those that run the group are very helpful and encourage you loads. I have had one of my tablets for diabetes taken away to make things good. I have lost weight and lost a dress size. Only hope this group can carry on as it is very helpful.

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