What is it? Alcohol is a depressant which slows down the brain and the body’s reactions. It is an addictive substance. Alcohol is a legal drug.

What happens when you take it?

  • It starts to have an effect within ten minutes or so and these effects can last for several hours depending on how much is consumed, body weight and the tolerance of the user.
  • Most people feel relaxed and less inhibited after three or four units (a unit is about half a pint). They become more talkative and have a warm feeling of enhanced wellbeing.
  • After about eight units, physical and mental function is reduced, drinkers slur their words and co–ordination becomes more difficult. Some people also become aggressive and confrontational and are at risk of causing injury to themselves and others. If it makes you aggressive or antisocial, think twice about drinking.

Are there long term, negative effects? Prolonged drinking will seriously damage your liver. The more you drink, the more likely you are to become addicted.


1 unit = 1/2 pint

  • Men should not regularly drink more than 3 to 4 units of alcohol per day, i.e. 1 and 1/2 to 2 pints a day.
  • Women should not regularly drink more than 2 to 3 units of alcohol per day, i.e. 1 to 1 and 1/2 pints a day. Pregnant women should not drink (see below).

The NHS gives daily limits for regular drinking to make it clear that you can’t store up your whole week’s “allowance” until the weekend and then drink heavily (this type of heavy or binge drinking is often harmful). The limits are lower for women because women’s bodies have a higher ratio of fat to water than men (making them less able to dilute alcohol in the body) and they do not process alcohol as effectively.

Drink Units Daily Limit — Men Daily Limit — Women
25ml (1 shot) 38–40% Sprit 1 unit 3 to 4 2 to 3
35ml (double shot) 38–40% Sprit 1.3 units 3 2
50ml 38–40% Gin 1.9 units 1 to 2 1
50ml 17.5–20% Sherry/Port 0.9 units 3 to 4 2 to 3
50ml 38–40% Whiskey 2 units 1 to 2 1
330ml bottle 5% Lager 1.7 units 1 to 2 1
330ml bottle 5% Alcopop 1.4 units 2 1 to 2
568ml (pint) 5% Lager 2.8 units 1 1
568ml (pint) 4% Bitter 2.3 units 1 to 2 1
125ml (glass) 12% Champagne 1.5 units 2 1 to 2
125ml (small glass) 12% Wine 1.5 units 2 1 to 2
175ml (large glass) 12% Wine 2.1 units 1 to 2 1

Please note that the daily limits given in this table will vary depending on your weight and alcohol tolerance. These limits are also not targets!

Pregnant women

Pregnant women and women trying to conceive should avoid drinking alcohol. If they do choose to drink, to protect the baby they should not drink more than one to two units of alcohol once or twice a week and should not get drunk.

Additional advice from 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.