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Recommended Units
What are the Recommended Sensible Drinking Levels?

This question is often asked when people are considering how much alcohol they drink.

The Department of Health (DH) recommended sensible drinking levels are:

No more than
14 Units
per week
No more than
14 Units
per week

The new Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines now advise that both men and women should not exceed 14 units of alcohol per week.

If you do drink as much as 14 units per week, it is best to spread this evenly over 3 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.

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.

Health Risks

Most people who have alcohol-related health problems are not alcoholics. They are often normal people who have just regularly drunk more units of alcohol than the Department of Health (DH) recommends for a number of years.

The hidden harms of alcohol usually only become apparent after years have passed. And by then it can be too late to reverse these problems. Serious health problems may have developed such as; liver problems; high blood pressure and an increased risk of various cancers and heart attacks.

The amount you drink, how often you drink, and how long you have been drinking all make a difference. Even if you do not think it will. Drinking is defined by three categories of risk as described in the table below. These are:

Alcohol Consumption

No more than 2-3 units a day with at least 3 alcohol free days per week.
Lower risk
This level of drinking means that in most circumstances you have a low risk of causing yourself future harm.

More than 2-3 units a day on a regular basis
Increasing risk
This level is above the current recommended guidance. Whilst at the point you may not notice any significant effects, continued drinking at this level can increase the risk and accelerate future health problems such as liver damage, mental health problems and stroke.

More than 35 units per week (or more than 6 units per day) on a regular basis.*
Higher risk
The risk at this level is significant. You could be doing serious damage to your liver and have a high risk of developing cancer and other serious conditions. If you cut down you are likely to feel the benefits quickly. If you feel stopping completely is too much becoming aware of your units and cutting down could really help you.

*Regular in this context means drinking at this sort of level every day or most days of the week; whilst for weekly drinking it refers to the amounts drunk for most of the year.

Use our Alcohol Quiz find out what risk level you are in.