Guidelines from the Department of Health advise that men should not regularly consume more than three or four units of alcohol a day and for women that drops to two or three units.
While it may be tempting to hit the bottle hard to drown your sorrows this is never going to be a good way to it is best to try to keep to recommended guidelines.
In total, the weekly limit is 21 for men and 14 for women
One pint of strong lager or cider or best bitter (5% volume) = three units
One pint of regular lager, cider or ordinary bitter (3 – 3.5% volume) = two units
One 175ml glass of red or white wine (12% volume) = two units
One 275ml bottle of alcopop (5.5% volume) = one and a half units
One pub measure of spirits – 25ml = one unit
There appears to be no consensus amongst the various authorities about the definition of binge drinking. Basing it on units of alcohol consumed does not really seem appropriate but going out deliberately to get hammered or drinking as much as possible in as short a time as possible would appear to be a more acceptable definition.
Short term effects of alcohol consumption
Small quantities of alcohol help us to relax and loosen our inhibitions so that we feel less intimidated in social situations. Unfortunately it is also a depressant and can affect physical co-ordination and speech and cause loss of balance and blurred vision as well as an enormous hangover.
Drinking large quantities of alcohol can lead to unconsciousness, coma, and in rare instances, death. Vomiting while unconscious can cause death from suffocation. Very unpleasant.
Long term effects of over consumption of alcohol
The availability and social acceptance of alcohol can make it difficult to avoid even if you want to. Long term abuse of alcohol can cause serious physical damage and can increase the likelihood of contracting some diseases or worsen others.
Some of the problems associated with alcohol abuse include hepatitis, cirrhosis of the liver, high blood pressure, heart failure, inflammation of the lining of the stomach (gastritis) and that of the pancreas (pancreatitis), some types of cancer – throat and mouth included. Add to that obesity, infertility, skin and sexual problems and if you weren't frightened before then you probably are now.
Women and alcohol
Recommended limits are lower for women because they have more body fat and less water in their body composition so that a woman who may well be as tall or weigh as much as a man will tend to get drunk more quickly.
Drinking during pregnancy can leave women at risk of a condition known as foetal alcohol syndrome which can cause deficiencies in growth, lowered intelligence, problems in the nervous system and facial abnormalities in the child. There is some evidence that pregnant women who drink ten to fifteen units a week - normally considered a safe amount - are more likely to have low birth weight babies. There is some indication that it is best not to drink at all during pregnancy.
The legal limits for driving are 80mg of alcohol in 100mls of blood. Factors such as weight, sex, metabolism and age can all affect your ability to drive once you have imbibed even a very modest amount of booze. The penalties if you are caught driving under the influence of alcohol are very severe for the most extreme cases. And rightly so. Also operating machinery, working at heights and swimming are not recommended.
The Portman Group was set up many years ago by Britain's leading drinks producers aims to promote responsible drinking and marketing of alcohol.