What’s the best guidance on safe drinking?
Drink within the limits
Because of the way in which alcohol affects the body there is some general health guidance on weekly limits of alcohol which are considered safe for males and females. This guidance is based on being in general good health, not pregnant and not drinking whilst taking medicines.
However, if just a quarter of the recommended weekly amount is drunk over a matter of hours, this is more likely to be harmful. Recent guidance encourages taking a break of 48 hours or having 2 days alcohol-free each week.
Safe limits for men
3 to 4 units per day. A guide limit of 21 units or less per week
Safe limits for women
2-3 units per day. A guide limit of 14 units or less per week
If you are pregnant or trying to conceive the safest option is to avoid drinking alcohol altogether, especially in the first 3 months. If you choose to drink, don’t drink more than 1-2 units once or twice a week. Binge drinking or getting drunk is especially harmful to the baby.
Know your units
With so many different drinks and glass sizes it's easy to get confused about how many units are in your drink. Try the units calculator to quickly calculate units in your favourite drink and download a drinks diary to track your drinking over a week.
- Use the online alcohol tracker - calculate alcohol units and keep a personal drinks diary on your desktop
- Track your drinking from your mobile phone - download the free NHS Drinks Tracker to your iPhone or iPod touch and keep your personal drinks diary
The average adult body can process one unit of alcohol in an hour, leaving, in theory, little or no alcohol in the blood (although this will vary from person to person).
Visit the NHS Health Choices for more information on calculating your units.