How to keep health risks from drinking alcohol to a low level

How to keep health risks from drinking alcohol to a low level

How to keep health risks from drinking alcohol to a low level

Published August 2016 by UK Department of Health, Alcohol Policy Team

Weekly drinking guideline (This applies to adults who drink regularly or frequently i.e. most weeks)

The Chief Medical Officers’ guideline for both men and women is that:

• To keep health risks from alcohol to a low level it is safest not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis.

• If you regularly drink as much as 14 units per week, it is best to spread your drinking evenly over 3 or more days. If you have one or two heavy drinking episodes a week, you increase your risks of death from long term illness and from accidents and injuries.

• The risk of developing a range of health problems (including strokes as well as cancers of the mouth, throat and breast) increases the more you drink on a regular basis.

• If you wish to cut down the amount you drink, a good way to help achieve this is to have several drink-free days each week.

Single occasion drinking episodes (This applies for drinking on any single occasion, not regular drinking, which is covered by the weekly guideline)

The Chief Medical Officers’ advice for men and women who wish to keep their short term health risks from single occasion drinking episodes to a low level is to reduce them by:

• limiting the total amount of alcohol you drink on any single occasion;

• drinking more slowly, drinking with food, and alternating with water;

• planning ahead to avoid problems e.g. by making sure you can get home safely or that you have people you trust with you.

As you will know, the sorts of things that are more likely to happen if you don’t understand and judge correctly the risks of drinking too much on a single occasion can include:

• accidents resulting in injury (causing death in some cases),

• misjudging risky situations, and

• losing self-control (e.g. engaging in unprotected sex).


Pregnancy and drinking

 The Chief Medical Officers’ guideline is that:

• If you are 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.

• Drinking in pregnancy can lead to long-term harm to the baby, with the more you drink the greater the risk.

The risk of harm to the baby is likely to be low if you have drunk only small amounts of alcohol before you knew you were pregnant or during pregnancy.

If you find out you are pregnant after you have drunk alcohol during early pregnancy, you should avoid further drinking. You should
be aware that it is unlikely in most cases that your baby has been affected. If you are worried about alcohol use during pregnancy do talk to your doctor or midwife.

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