How many units are in the alcohol that you are drinking?
Before we find out if you are misusing alcohol let us look at the units that are in different types of alcohol and how much is recommended to safely take. Alcohol is measured in units. A unit of alcohol is 10ml of pure alcohol, which is about half a pint of normal strength lager or a single measure (25ml) of spirits. A small glass (125ml) of wine contains about one-and-a-half units of alcohol.
Men should not regularly drink more than 3-4 units of alcohol a day, and women should not regularly drink more than 2-3 units a day. ‘Regularly’ means drinking this amount every day or most days of the week. It’s also recommended that both men and women have at least two alcohol-free days each week.

How do I know that I am misusing alcohol?

Alcohol misuse means drinking excessively – more than the recommended limits of alcohol consumption.
You are a low risk drinker or sensible or responsible drinker if you drink 21 units of alcohol a week or less (adult men) or 14 units a week or less (adult women).
You are a hazardous drinker if you regularly drink 22-50 units of alcohol a week (adult men), or 15-35 units a week (adult women). Hazardous drinking, particularly binge drinking, also carries additional risks such as: being involved in an accident, becoming involved in an argument or fight, taking part in risky or illegal behaviour while drunk, such as having unprotected sex or drink-driving.
Harmful drinking means drinking over 50 units of alcohol a week (adult men) or over 35 units a week (adult women) weekly and experiencing health problems directly related to alcohol. In some cases, harmful drinking may cause obvious problems such as: depression, acute pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas – a gland that produces insulin) and an alcohol-related accident, such as a head injury.
Many health problems that occur as a result of harmful drinking don’t cause any symptoms until they reach their most serious stages. These include: heart disease, high blood pressure, cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) and some types of cancer such as mouth cancer and bowel cancer. This means it can be easy to underestimate levels of physical damage caused by harmful drinking. Harmful drinking can also cause social problems, such as relationship difficulties with your partner or family and friends, as well as problems at work or college.
Alcohol is both physically and psychologically addictive. It’s therefore possible to become dependent on it. Being dependent on alcohol means you feel unable to function without it, and drinking becomes an important (or sometimes the most important) factor in your life. One way to think about whether you’re dependent on alcohol is to ask, “Do I carry on drinking even though I know it’s harming me or upsetting my family?”

You could be misusing alcohol if:

You feel you should cut down on your drinking,
Other people have been criticising your drinking,
You feel guilty or bad about your drinking and you need a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or get rid of a hangover.

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