Frequently asked questions about alcohol

Welcome to Drinkaware’s FAQs about alcohol.

If you can’t find the answer to any of your questions here, then please email us.

What is a unit?

One unit is 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol. This equals one 25ml single measure of whisky (ABV 40%), or a third of a pint of beer (ABV 5-6%) or half a standard (175ml) glass of red wine (ABV 12%).

How many units can I drink?

Drinking in moderation should not have any adverse health effects. The government advises that people should not regularly drink more than 14 units a week. ‘Regularly’ means drinking every day or most days of the week.

To calculate your unit consumption, use our unit and calorie calculator.

What is binge drinking?

The definition of binge drinking used by the NHS and National Office of Statistics is drinking more than double the daily unit guidelines for alcohol in one session. Binge drinking for men, therefore, is drinking more than 8 units of alcohol – or about three pints of strong beer. For women, it’s drinking more than 6 units of alcohol, equivalent to two large glasses of wine.

Binge drinking is a major factor in accidents, violence and anti-social behaviour.

For more information, visit our binge drinking page.

From what age am I legally allowed to drink?

The law is complex. It is illegal to give alcohol to children under five, but after the age of five children can drink alcohol at home with adult supervision.

Under the Licencing Act (2003) children aged under 16 may now enter any part of a licensed premises as long as they are accompanied by an adult, but they cannot drink alcohol.

Young people aged 16 and 17 may consume some types of alcohol – namely beer, cider and wine - as long as it is with a meal, and they are accompanied by an adult. 

It is illegal for anyone under 18 to buy alcohol at the bar of a pub, or from any other outlet selling alcohol. 

What is the law around drink driving?

In the UK, the alcohol limit for drivers is 80 milligrammes of alcohol per 100millilitres of blood, 35 microgrammes per 100 millilitres of breath or 107milligrammes per 100 millilitres of urine. It is impossible to say how many units or drinks this represents, because everyone metabolises alcohol at different rates. 

For more information visit our drink driving page.

Do you need to cut down?

The first step is to look honestly at how much you drink and how that compares to the lower risk guidelines.

Alcohol Unit Guidelines

14 units per week for woman and 14 for men

Find out how many units you are drinking

Compare your drinking to the government’s lower risk guidelines.

Try our Unit Calculator

How to cut down

Read more tips

Benefits of cutting down

Learn about the benefits

Page updated: February 2016