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Know your limits - how much you should be drinking

The Chief Medical Officers of the UK have created guidelines about how much you should drink to ensure there's a low risk to you and your health.

If you want to find out how much you're drinking, you can complete our alcohol quiz.

Weekly drinking guidelines

The Chief Medical Officers' guidelines for both men and women are that:

  • To keep health risks from alcohol to a low level it's safest not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis.
  • If you regularly drink as much as 14 units per week, it's best to spread your drinking evenly over 3 or more days. If you have one or two heavy drinking episodes a week, you increase your risk of death from long term illness, accidents and injuries.
  • The risk of developing a range of health problems increases the more you drink on a regular basis. Find out more about the benefits of drinking less.

If you wish to drink less, a good way to help achieve this is to have several drink-free days each week. See how to keep track of your progress.

Single occasion drinking

The advice if you wish to lower short-term health risks from single-occasion drinking is to:

  • Limit the total amount of alcohol you drink on any single occasion. You'll find tips on how to do this on our Planning to Change pages.
  • Drink more slowly, drinking with food and alternating with water
  • Try to think ahead to avoid problems. For example, make sure you can get home safely or that you have people you trust with you.

Alcohol can have a stronger effect on some groups of people. They should be more careful of their level of drinking on any one occasion. For example, you're more at risk if you're:

  • At risk of falls
  • On medication that may interact with alcohol
  • Likely to exacerbate pre-existing physical and mental health problems

Pregnancy and drinking

The Chief Medical Officers' guidelines are that:

  • If you're pregnant or think you could become pregnant, the safest approach is not to drink alcohol at all. This lowers the risk to your baby.
  • Drinking in pregnancy can lead to long-term harm to the baby, with the more you drink the greater the risk.
  • The risk of harm to the baby is likely to be low if you drank only small amounts of alcohol before you knew you were pregnant.

If you find out you're pregnant after drinking alcohol in early pregnancy, avoid further drinking.  

If you have any worries about alcohol use during pregnancy, do talk to your doctor or midwife.

The full Chief Medical Officers' drinking guidelines are on the GOV.UK website.

What's next

Get some tips on how to drink less.

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