How much is too much?
For the majority of people, drinking is enjoyable, helps them unwind or relax and they drink without any problems. For some though, their heavy drinking can lead to problems.
Am I drinking too much?
The daily recommended sensible drinking limits are:
- For men – you should not regularly drink more than three to four units of alcohol per day
- For women – you should not regularly drink more than two to three units of alcohol per day
- Everyone should take a break for 48 hours after a heavy drinking session to let your body recover.
The daily recommended limit is just that, your limit for that day, the maximum you should drink in any one day. You can’t ‘save’ units in the week to use at the weekend – it doesn’t work that way. The same daily limit applies whether you drink every day or once a week. So not drinking on Thursday doesn’t mean you can double the daily limit on Friday to make up for it. The limit is the maximum amount of alcohol your body can deal with on one day without risking your health or general well-being.
The daily recommended levels are used as a guide to how much you can normally drink without putting your health at risk. They don’t apply to women who are pregnant (or trying to conceive) or to young people.
You are likely to be drinking too much and may be developing alcohol dependence if you:
- need a drink every day
- drink alone often
- need a drink to stop trembling (‘the shakes’)
- drink early, or first thing in the morning (to avoid withdrawal symptoms)
- often have a strong desire to drink alcohol
- spend a lot of your time on activities where alcohol is available. For example, if you spend a lot of time at the social club or pub
- neglect other interests or pleasures because of alcohol drinking
Pregnancy and alcohol limits
The NHS recommends that pregnant women or women trying to conceive should avoid drinking alcohol. Current advice for those who choose to drink whilst pregnant is to drink no more than one or two units of alcohol, once or twice a week and to never get drunk. In addition, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) advises women to avoid alcohol in the first three months in particular, because of the increased risk of miscarriage. You can find out more at the NHS Choices website.
How to cut down
There is a wealth of confidential help, advice and support available to anyone wanting to cut down the amount they drink - visit our Health and Advice page for more details or, alternatively, speak to your GP.
Not sure if you need to cut down? Why not keep a drinks diary for a few weeks so that you can see exactly what you are drinking and when. This will help you to understand what makes you drink, how much you are drinking and where you might need to cut down. Note down how you felt before you had a drink and how you felt afterwards, who were you with, how did it make you feel?
Click the thumnbail to download a printable Drinks Diary as a PDF.