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How Much Alcohol is Too Much?

By: Sam Harrington-Lowe - Updated: 6 May 2015 | comments*Discuss
Alcohol Alcohol Health Drinking Alcohol

How much alcohol is too much can depend on who you are, and you could argue, what the circumstances are. Daily, heavy drinking that affects your health is clearly too much, and drinking alcohol until you are incoherent or ill on a night out is also obviously pushing the envelope.

Drinking enough to cause or be involved in accidents is too much, so is being drunk enough to get into fights or arguments. Binge drinking is too much, and anything that gives you a hangover is also probably over the top!

But really, how much alcohol is too much?

Clear Guidelines

The government publishes clear guidelines on how much alcohol it is safe or reasonable to drink. This is based on medical evidence showing how much quantities can affect our bodies and also relates to the speed at which the liver can process alcohol safely.

The current advice is that men should limit themselves to three or four units a day and women less, at two or three units. Women are lighter and less able to process as much so their intake should be lower.

Don't Binge

Saving units for bingeing might seem like a good idea - after all, if you stick to the recommended units per week, surely that's a good thing? It doesn't work like that. Drinking nothing through the week and then going mad at the weekend puts enormous pressure on your body, overloading the system and making your liver work harder. You are far better drinking in moderation most of the time, but having at least one or two alcohol-free days a week, to give your liver a chance to recover.

How Many Units are in My Drinks?

  • One pint of strong lager such as Stella, Kronenbourg (alcohol 5% vol) = 3 units
  • One pint of standard strength lager such as Fosters, Carling (alcohol 3 - 4% vol) = 2 units
  • One 275ml bottle of an alcopop (alcohol 5.5% vol) = 1.5 units
  • One standard (175ml) glass of wine (alcohol 12% vol) = 2 units
  • One measure (25ml) of a spirit strength drink = 1 unit

What to do in an Emergency

Most of us have had those nights where we overdo it, particularly in younger years. Drinking gets out of hand and before you know it, you're either behaving badly or throwing up! Fortunately the worst most of us can expect from a night like this is a terrible case of embarrassment and a shocking hangover.

But it can get worse. Being out of control can mean your drink has been or could be spiked, leading to attack or rape. And really, really excessive drinking can lead to alcohol poisoning, which is not at all funny and definitely potentially fatal.

Because the person suffering from alcohol poisoning are very often also in a similar although not so bad condition, it's one of the least recognised emergencies and is often ignored, or even laughed at. But if someone falls into a coma due to severe alcohol poisoning, it can be very serious indeed.

If you want to tell the difference between someone who has 'passed out' drunk - ie fallen asleep, and someone who is in trouble, there are some signs to look for. Vomiting is a start, profuse sweating, troubled breathing - whether it's short shallow breaths or laboured heavy breathing - clammy skin or unconsciousness. All these are symptoms to be concerned about, especially if the patient has several of them.

If in doubt, don't take the risk. Acting fast could save a life - and what's the worst that can happen? The victim is fine and resists you.

Place the victim in the recovery position, on their side so they don't choke on their own vomit or tongue. Then call for help, or ask someone else to, staying with them until the ambulance arrives. Ensure you can hear them breathing, and check for a pulse. If they vomit, try to ensure the airway is kept clear. Stay calm and wait for help.

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I am separated from my husband but still sharing a house as we have a 2 year old together and I am trying to save up to get a place of our own. My problem is, my estranged husband is an alcoholic, who I can't trust around my child, he does work, but his first priority is a drink as soon as he walks through the door. Is there any help out there so I can get my child away from this behaviour as he/she is now at that age of copying everything we do. And the last thing I want is for him/her get get ahold of his drinks and drink them.
bex - 6-May-15 @ 8:37 AM
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