Alcohol has become a normal and accepted part of life. It is a drug that has the immediate effect of affecting mood by making you feel relaxed and happy, even euphoric, but in fact alcohol is a depressant.

The liver breaks down and eliminates alcohol from the body.  It takes the liver one hour to deal with one unit of alcohol (8 grams).

Men should not drink more than three to four units a day and no more than 21 units per week. Women are advised to take not more than two to three units per day or 14 units per week. However it is better to drink less than this.

You shouldn’t save up your units for the weekend, as binge drinking (defined as drinking at least 10 units at a time) can increase the risk of stroke, high blood pressure, cancer, liver disease and mental health problems.  However with the ageing process it is advised that older people should set themselves lower limits perhaps between a third or a half lower than the general limits. Safe limits depend on your physical health, your weight, your medication and the state of your liver.

The following is a guide only for the number of units in common alcoholic drinks (Source: ‘You don’t have to be drunk to be doing real damage’ information leaflet, Public Health Agency).

Pint of lager/cider/stout - 2½ units
NI pub measure of spirits/shot - 1 ½ units
Alcopop/bottle of lager - 1 ½ units
Bottle of Wine (6 small glasses) - 9 units
Can of extra strong lager - 4 ½ units
Small pub bottle of wine (187.5ml) - 2 ¼ units

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For more detailed information, please refer to our alcohol and drugs section. Also see the Alcohol Misuse Service section.

Page last updated:22 July 2014