The alcohol guidelines were updated in early 2016 for the first time in over 20 years. These new guidelines reflect the growing amount of research on alcohol and its effects on our health. In response to this new information, the guidelines have changed significantly.

If you do choose to drink alcohol, you can keep the risks to your health low by drinking within the recommended limits. These are:

Men and women shouldn't regularly drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week. 

Because alcoholic drinks come in different strengths and sizes, a 'unit' is a way of knowing how much alcohol is in your drink. Many people over-estimate what a unit is - when asked, around half of all Scots did not know the number of units in a pint of beer, measure of spirits or a glass of wine. Do you?

What is a unit of alcohol?

A unit of alcohol is a measure of the amount of alcohol there is in your drink – the more units, the more alcohol there is in your drink.

The size and strength of your drink determines how many units it contains. The strength of alcohol is measured by the percentage of alcohol by volume (% ABV).ALL DRINKS - What does 1 unit of alcohol look likeV2 copy 2

In the UK one unit is 10ml of pure (100% ABV) alcohol. This is equivalent to:

  • 76ml of standard strength wine (13% ABV)
  • 250ml (or just under half a pint) of beer    (4% ABV)
  • 25ml of spirit (40% ABV)

Home measures are often more generous than those in a pub or restaurant. For example, a large 440ml bottle or a can of strong beer (6.5%) has almost 3 units of alcohol in it.

What are the current recommendations?

For both men and women, the recommendation for people who drink regularly or frequently 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.

It is best to stay within these guidelines, but the bottom line is that there is no ‘safe’ limit. The risk of developing a range of illnesses increases with any amount you drink on a regular basis.

Useful contacts

Alcohol Focus Scotland


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