Know… your units

Most people accept that too much alcohol can be bad for you. But do you know how much is too much?

What's recommended?

The four UK Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) have today (8 January 2016) launched new Alcohol Guidelines.

These proposals set out the professional, technical and scientifically-based, public health advice from the four UK CMOs on alcohol consumption.

Drinking guidelines have been developed for people over 18 years of age.

Advice for both men and women

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

  • You are safest not to drink regularly more than 14 units per week, to keep health risks from drinking alcohol to a low level.
  • If you do drink as much as 14 units per week, it is best to spread this evenly over three days or more. If you have one or two heavy drinking sessions, you increase your risks of death from long term illnesses and from accidents and injuries.

It's important to spread the units throughout the week – you can't ‘save up’ your units for the weekend or a party.

Advice on single episodes of drinking

The Chief Medical Officers advise men and women who wish to keep their short term health risks from a single drinking occasion to a low level that they can reduce these risks by:

  • limiting the total amount of alcohol you drink on any occasion;
  • drinking more slowly, drinking with food, and alternating with water;
  • avoiding risky places and activities, making sure you have people you know around, and ensuring you can get home safely.

Advice on alcohol and pregnancy

The Chief Medical Officers’ guideline is that:

  • If you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, 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.