Units Of Alcohol Explained

Understanding Alcohol Units



What Are Units Of Alcohol Exactly?
Knowing what a unit of alcohol represents is essential, as it could literally save your life



There is some confusion when it comes to understanding alcohol units; many people are under the impression that a unit of alcohol is the same as a standard drink.

This actually becomes a dangerous proposition if you are trying to follow the recommended daily allowance of alcohol intake. Not only is over consumption a threat to your health, it could get you into legal hot water should you decide to drive! Here is a simple explanation of alcohol units.



Formal Explanation Of An Alcohol Unit

A unit of alcohol is actually 10 milliliters. Determining how many of these units is in any particular drink can be done using a mathematical equation. You would first multiply the volume (in milliliters) of the drink by the alcohol by volume and then divide the result by 1000.

This information can actually be found on most alcoholic beverages in the United Kingdom. As a general rule, the units of alcohol per bottle of wine or other spirits is usually on the label.


Weekly Suggested Alcohol Units

To promote public health and safety officials put together the safe drinking levels in the UK for men and women. The biggest problem with the initial allowable limit when it comes to units of alcohol is that they were figured on a weekly basis.

For example, men were said to be safe when consuming no more than 21 units per week and for women the number was 14. What officials soon discovered is drinkers would "save" up their allowance and binge drink on the weekends!

Updated recommendations state that men should drink no more than 3-4 alcohol units per day and women should drink no more than 2-3 alcohol units per day.

The discrepancy between the genders can be explained by the difference in body weight and water to body mass ratios, women are generally lighter than men and have a lower water ratio therefore their bodies metabolize alcohol at a different rate.



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Units Of Alcohol In Popular Drinks

If you would rather not do complicated math equations each time you have a pint or glass of red wine you can download drink trackers online. Or you can compile your own list of favored drinks to file away in the back of your mind.

Here are a few units of alcohol per specific drinks:

  • ½ Pint of Carlsberg - a full pint is equal to 473.1 ml. On the official Carlsberg website, the units of alcohol are provided on a milliliter basis. On the site, 275 ml of Carlsberg, which is a bit over half a pint, is equal to one unit of alcohol.
  • Red wine - in popular restaurants glasses are a bit larger than the average, but as a general rule it will contain approximately three units of alcohol. Of course, you have to keep in mind that some wines may have larger ABV (alcohol by volume) ratings, which will affect the alcohol units.
  • Spirits - a pub shot of gin will be approximately 40% ABV; 25 ml of these spirits equal a unit of alcohol, unless they are using a larger glass, such as the 35 ml variety, which is about 1.4 units.
  • Lager - 500 ml of lager equals 3 units.
  • Strong Pale Lager - stronger varieties can be as much as 3 units per half pint (again this is about 235 ml).


Merely Guidelines

You should keep in mind that these numbers and figures are merely a guideline and should never be looked at as permission to drink.

There may be special considerations in your particular case that would result in medical professionals suggesting you limit your intake of units of alcohol or stay away from it all together.

Here are a few factors that may affect your allowable alcohol consumption:

  • How much do you weigh? - Are you considerably underweight? If you are below the average, 60 kg for men and 50 kg for women you should limit your alcohol consumption.
  • Family history - do you have close family members who have struggled with alcohol abuse, particularly first generation such as mother, father or siblings you should be extremely careful with your consumption. There is some evidence that alcoholism runs in families.
  • Illness - If you have certain illnesses alcohol may be completely off the menu. Hepatitis C patients who drink heavily have much poorer health outcomes than those who moderate or do not drink at all.
  • Age - the young, 18- 25 and the elderly should both keep their consumption in the two units per day range.



Understanding units of alcohol is very important on many different fronts. You have your health to consider as well as staying out of legal trouble when you drive home from the pub.

Research has been done that shows that average healthy adults who stick within the guidelines will suffer no ill effects from the use of alcohol. Of course, keep in mind there are several exceptions to the rule so remember to factor in your personal situation.




If you or someone close to you wants help and advice on quitting drinking then take a look at the following pages:


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Deborah Morrow, M.S. Addiction Psychology, is the director of treatment programs for The Alcoholism Guide website. In her practice Deborah provides on-line coaching and support for those dependent on alcohol or who require other services such as relapse prevention or court mandated services. (Read More)






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