How much alcohol is too much?

Occasionally drinking alcohol is generally considered not to be harmful to your health. However, regularly drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can have both short- and long-term effects on your body. To reduce the risk of alcohol-related health conditions, it is therefore advised to keep within low-risk drinking guidelines. 

Low-risk drinking guidelines

The NHS recommends that men and women drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week, spread out over at least three days. It is also important to incorporate several alcohol-free days into your week.

What is a unit?

A unit of alcohol refers to the amount of pure alcohol in your drink and is equivalent to 8g or 10ml of pure alcohol. The number of units in any given drink depends on the volume and alcohol strength of the drink. For example the number of units in a medium glass (175ml) of wine can range from just above one unit to over three units depending on the strength of the wine.

Alcohol intake recommendations

Keeping to low-risk drinking guidelines significantly reduces your risk of developing an alcohol-use disorder. In fact, only around 2% of people who stick to these guidelines develop a problem with alcohol. 

Alcohol-use disorders include alcoholism, alcohol dependence, binge drinking and heavy drinking. 

According to the NHS, binge drinking refers to drinking with the explicit intention of getting drunk or drinking a lot of alcohol over a short amount of time. Alcohol affects everyone differently, which makes it difficult to assign a specific number of alcohol units to binge drinking. However, the UK's Office of National Statistics generally defines binge drinking as a woman drinking more than six units or a man drinking more than eight units during one drinking session. 

Heavy drinking refers to binge drinking for five or more days over a single month. 

Calculate your alcohol intake

To find out how many units are in a particular drink or to check how much you're drinking, use Alcohol Change UK's unit calculator.

Tolerance to Alcohol

You may drink more alcohol than recommended by low-risk drinking guidelines but not become drunk. This is because as you increase the amount you drink, your body builds up a tolerance to alcohol so the effects of alcohol may appear reduced. However, you are still putting your health at risk.

How much alcohol is too much FAQs

How much alcohol is OK daily?

To keep your risk of alcohol-related health conditions low, it is important to have several alcohol-free days every week. Also, you shouldn’t drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week and these units should be spread out over at least three days. 

What is considered excessive alcohol use?

Regularly drinking more than 14 units of alcohol per week, or drinking more than six units if you’re a woman or eight units if you’re a man in a single drinking session. 

How do I know if I drink too much alcohol?

It is important to track how much you’re drinking every week. You can keep a diary to help with this. There are many online alcohol unit calculators available, so you can calculate whether you’re drinking more than 14 units a week, which is what is recommended to reduce your risk of alcohol-related health conditions. It is important to note that you can be drinking excessively without experiencing the symptoms of getting drunk. 

What happens if you drink alcohol every day?

Drinking alcohol every day puts a strain on your gut, liver and other organs. You are also more likely to go over the low-risk drinking guidelines, which state that you shouldn’t drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week. This can have long-term effects on your health, including increasing your risk of cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. 

Is one bottle of wine a day too much?

One bottle (750ml) of 13% strength wine contains 9.75 alcohol units. Given that the NHS recommends drinking no more than 14 units per week spread out over at least three days if you are a regular drinker, consuming one bottle of wine in a single night is too much. 

Is it OK to drink every night?

To reduce your risk of alcohol-related health conditions, it is important to incorporate several alcohol-free days into your week. It is, therefore, not ideal to be drinking alcohol every night. You are also more likely to go over the low-risk drinking guidelines, which state that you shouldn’t drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week.

We hope you've found this article useful, however, it cannot be a substitute for a consultation with a specialist

If you're concerned about symptoms you're experiencing or require further information on the subject, talk to a GP or see an expert consultant at your local Spire hospital.

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Cahoot Care Marketing

Niched in the care sector, Cahoot Care Marketing offers a full range of marketing services for care businesses including: SEO, social media, websites and video marketing, specialising in copywriting and content marketing.

Over the last five years Cahoot Care Marketing has built an experienced team of writers and editors, with broad and deep expertise on a range of care topics. They provide a responsive, efficient and comprehensive service, ensuring content is on brand and in line with relevant medical guidelines.

Their writers and editors include care sector workers, healthcare copywriting specialists and NHS trainers, who thoroughly research all topics using reputable sources including the NHS, NICE, relevant Royal Colleges and medical associations.

The Spire Content Hub project was managed by:

Lux Fatimathas, Editor and Project Manager

Lux has a BSc(Hons) in Neuroscience from UCL, a PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and experience as a postdoctoral researcher in developmental biology. She has a clear and extensive understanding of the biological and medical sciences. Having worked in scientific publishing for BioMed Central and as a writer for the UK’s Medical Research Council and the National University of Singapore, she is able to clearly communicate complex concepts.

Catriona Shaw, Lead Editor

Catriona has an English degree from the University of Southampton and more than 12 years’ experience copy editing across a range of complex topics. She works with a diverse team of writers to create clear and compelling copy to educate and inform.

Alfie Jones, Director — Cahoot Care Marketing

Alfie has a creative writing degree from UCF and initially worked as a carer before supporting his family’s care training business with copywriting and general marketing. He has worked in content marketing and the care sector for over 10 years and overseen a diverse range of care content projects, building a strong team of specialist writers and marketing creatives after founding Cahoot in 2016.