Be Alcohol Aware

Alcohol tips and facts

We've all heard that saying on a Friday afternoon: "we're going to the pub for a few drinks". Some of us have also been unfortunate enough to wake up feeling the effects of the night before. Here are our quick and easy nuggets of information to help you learn more about alcohol and the impact it can have on you. This information can allow you to take control of how much you drink, save yourself some money and not feel so bad the morning after.

1. Alcohol units

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Alcohol units are the standardised way of showing how much pure alcohol is in a drink. The stronger the drinks, the higher the units, the higher the amount of pure alcohol you’re consuming.

Here are some examples of units:

1 unit: single measure of 40% spirit
2 units: a medium glass of wine or a pint of low strength beer/lager/cider
3 units: a large glass of wine or a pint of strong beer/lager/cider
4 units or above: cocktails

The strength of the drinks you consume is shown as Alcohol by Volume (ABV). For example, if you buy a bottle of wine with 12% ABV, 12% of the volume that you drink is pure alcohol.

If you want to find out more about how many units you consume, check out this unit calculator

2. Risk of drinking too much

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Men and women are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week. You should spread this out over 3 or more days and have a couple of non-alcohol days. There is no safe level of alcohol consumption. Consuming too much alcohol can have a very bad impact on your health and wellbeing, from increasing your risk of developing cancer to damaging your liver.

In the short term, drinking too much at any given point could result in injuries and accidents such as head injuries, fractures and alcohol poisoning. More long-term effects of excessive alcohol consumption include cancers of the mouth, throat and breast, stroke, liver disease and brain damage. Alcohol is one of the three biggest lifestyle risk factors for disease and death in the UK, after smoking and obesity.

If you're concerned about how much you're drinking or concerned for someone else, see how Don't Bottle It Up can help you.

3. Binge drinking

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Binge drinking refers to consuming large amounts of alcohol over a short period of time. For men, this means consuming eight or more units (3 pints of 4% strength beer) and for women, it’s six or more units (just over 2 x 175ml large glasses of 13% strength wine).

4. Dealing with a hangover

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Hangovers…we’ve been there, or know of someone who was hungover the day after a night involving alcohol. Some people might have their own tradition for coping with a hangover, from energy drinks to certain foods. The best tip for hangovers is simply to avoid getting them in the first place. The easiest way to do this is by not drinking alcohol at all.

If you do drink, there are some things you can put in place to avoid the hangover. These include limiting how much you drink, drinking slower, drinking with food and switching between water or non-alcoholic drinks.

If you do unfortunately get a hangover, be sure to have over-the-counter painkillers and plenty of fluids. Alcohol makes your body get rid of water, so the best way to combat this is by drinking water to balance this out. Replenish vitamins and minerals as well by grabbing a bite to eat.

5. Choose low strength alternatives

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Swapping high strength drinks for low strength drinks isn’t as noticeable as you’d think. Low strength drinks still taste great and it doesn’t mean you’re having any less of a good time. Have a look at the bottle for the information or ask bar staff for alternatives.

6. How long does alcohol stay in my blood stream?

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Alcohol stays in your system for an hour per unit you consume. The more alcohol you drink; the longer alcohol stays in your system. If you are driving, it is recommended that you avoid consuming any amount of alcohol as there is no safe way to tell whether you’re within the legal limit.

If you are driving and decide to have a drink, personal breathalysers are available to purchase. There are some breathalysers to help you get an idea of whether you’re able to drive or not. Some of these even come with an app so that you can record your drinking behaviour.

7. Can I drink alcohol if I'm pregnant?

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If you’re pregnant, the safest approach to take is to avoid consuming alcohol – this will minimise any risk of harm to your baby. The consequences of drinking alcohol while pregnant include learning difficulties, behavioural problems and foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). This could often result in your baby having poor growth, face abnormalities and learning and behavioural problems.

Once alcohol is consumed, it passes through the bloodstream and into the placenta. The liver is one of the last organs to develop. Your baby is unable to process alcohol in the same way as you are, and is therefore at risk of not developing healthily.

8. Benefits of cutting down on your drinking

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There are several reasons why cutting down or giving up on alcohol altogether will benefit you. From better sleep and improved concentration to a healthier wallet and improved long-term health there are many plus sides to ditching the drink sometimes.

9. Calories in alcohol

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You might be surprised to learn that alcohol has hidden calories. The beer belly is not a myth, it is a consequence of consuming extra calories from alcohol. On average, a wine drinker in England will consume roughly 2,000 calories each month!

But it doesn't stop there. A night of drinking could also involve snacking, and a fry-up breakfast the next morning can easily add on an extra 450 calories to what has been consumed the night before. Did you know that two large glasses of white wine add up to 370 calories? This is equivalent to 20% of the daily calorie intake for women. Likewise, three pints of beer adds up to 550 calories - the equivalent to 22% of the daily intake for men.

Curious about how many calories you might have consumed? Try out this free calorie calculator

10. Alcohol and mood

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Drinking large amounts of alcohol over a long period of time can have a negative impact on your mood and wellbeing in the long run. Alcohol disrupts how you process emotions and as a consequence, you're more at risk of not managing negative emotions in a healthy way. This can leave you feeling very angry or aggressive at times, as well as feeling worried or depressed.

If you'd like to find out more about how you can improve your mood and wellbeing, visit our Be Happy page.