Alcohol Facts

Alcohol is the most widely used drug in the world.  Although classified as a depressant, the effects it has on your body can vary depending on the amount consumed.  Small quantities may make people feel relaxed and disinhibited, whilst higher doses can impair judgment and co-ordination. Negative effects associated with advanced levels of intoxication include slurred speech, vomiting and unconsciousness. An overdose of alcohol can potentially lead to coma and death.  There are links between alcohol use and aggressive behaviour and violence.

Drinking too much can damage physical and mental health 


Drinking can affect your mood, sleep and immune system as well as cause weight gain.  Heavy drinking is associated with a wide range of medical conditions including the following:

  • Linked to cancer of the mouth, throat and breast
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Liver disease
  • Stroke
  • cancer
  • Brain damage
  • Damage to the nervous system


Binge drinking, where a large amount of alcohol is consumed in a short space of time, is associated with additional health risks including accidental injury. Being drunk impairs judgement and co-ordination which increases the risk of being injured from a fall, road traffic accident, house fire, or violence.


Drinking can also affect your mental health and is linked to depression and self harm, including suicide.  People sometimes use alcohol to manage symptoms of depression and anxiety, but the alcohol can often make these symptoms worse creating a viscous cycle.


As well as affecting our own well being drinking can have a negative impact on our relationships, affecting those who are closest to us.


See Fact Sheets below for further information:


Low Risk Drinking Guidelines

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

  • to keep health risks from alcohol to a low level it is 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 is best to spread your drinking evenly over 3 or more days
  • if you have 1 or 2 heavy drinking episodes a week, you increase your risks of death from long term illness and from accidents and injuries
  • the risk of developing a range of health problems, including cancers of the mouth, throat and breast, increases the more you drink on a regular basis
  • if you want to cut down the amount you drink, a good way is to have several drink-free days each week


There is no ‘safe’ drinking level. Low risk is used rather than safe because there is no safe level


See Alcohol Change UK Unit Calculator – Alcohol Change UK


Information retrieved from – Low-risk drinking guidelines | NHS inform


Tips on cutting down

  • Limit how much you drink
  • Drink with food
  • Alternate with water or non-alcoholic drinks
  • Have drink free days during the week
  • Use a smaller glass
  • Choose lower strength alcohol
  • Let friends and family know so that they can support you


Getting Support

There are different ways of measuring levels of risk associated with drinking.  Risk can be assessed simply on number of units consumed each week or drinking patterns and feeling about drinking.  Find out more about the language used around the different types of drinking through the following link – How do we talk about alcohol? | Alcohol Change UK

If you are concerned about your own drinking or are worried about somebody else’s drinking and need advice or support please see Services and Support


Alcohol in Pregnancy

There’s no proven “safe” level of alcohol in pregnancy. Not drinking at all is the safest approach.

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage, premature birth and your baby having a low birthweight.  It can also affect your baby after they’re born and can causing a condition called foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).

For further information visit NHS Inform Alcohol and Pregnancy  – NHS Inform


Further Information 

Alcohol – Healthy Living | NHS inform

Alcohol facts and figures | Alcohol Focus Scotland (

Alcohol Change UK: Alcohol harms. Time for change. | Alcohol Change UK

FASD Hub | Home | Adoption UK Charity

Alcohol and cancer types – Infographic | Publications (

Alcohol and parenting | Alcohol Change UK

Alcohol and calories | Alcohol Change UK