Helping you get through tough times

Low-risk drinking

We know that as a nation we drink a fair bit, and we certainly know having drinks with friends is a good laugh.

Hand held up refusing another drinkBut, we also know drinking too much can have serious consequences, and sometimes we can end up in situations that are pretty risky.

Drinking sensibly

It’s possible to drink at a level which is less risky for you, while still having fun.

We call it low-risk drinking, and essentially it means drinking with a bit of sense.

Taking control

Low-risk drinking isn’t always easy to do and managing the pressure to get drunk can be a bit of a challenge sometimes (check managing peer pressure to drink). But, it starts with you deciding to make a change, and taking control of the amount of alcohol you consume.

It’s your decision how much you drink, and keeping it in moderation might actually be better for your social life.

No more fights outside the chipper or mornings of “I’M NEVER DRINKING AGAIN” might be quite nice.

How much is too much?

We all respond to alcohol differently, so it’s important you know your own limits and the sort of effect it has on you.

How alcohol affects you may be influenced by a number of factors. These can be how much alcohol you drink, how quickly you drink it, whether you consume alcohol with other drugs, whether you’re male or female, your mood, your body type, and whether or not you’ve eaten properly beforehand.

New to it …

If you haven’t drunk alcohol before, it can be difficult for you to know what your limits are.

The first time you drink, it’s a good idea to be somewhere you know you’re safe and someone is looking out for you.

This is so they can help you if the alcohol affects you strongly or in an unexpected way. This might be at home, or at a friend’s place.

A standard drink

A standard drink has 10 grams of pure alcohol. Knowing how many standard drinks you’re having may help you in managing your alcohol use. Different types of alcoholic drinks contain different amounts of pure alcohol.

The following are examples of standard drinks:

  • 285ml glass of beer
  • 100ml glass of table wine (a small glass – generally not what you’ll get in a pub)
  • 30ml of spirits (one shot).

The general guidelines are that men shouldn’t regularly drink more than three to four units of alcohol per day and women shouldn’t regularly drink more than two to three units of alcohol per day.

Your body gets rid of about one standard drink per hour. Realise that alcohol isn’t always served as standard drinks.

For more information about standard drinks check out Ask About Alcohol for facts, tips and other information on alcohol.

Know your limits

The following the recommended drink limitations:

Recommended limits for guys:

Up to 17 standard drinks per week is considered a low health-risk for most men. That works out as no more than four standard drinks a day on average, with an occasional maximum of six. (Remember that a pint counts as more than one drink here.)

There should always be at least two days a week when you don’t drink.

Recommended limits for girls:

Up to 11 standard drinks a week is considered a low health-risk for most women. This would be no more than two standard drinks a day on average, with an occasional maximum of four standard drinks.

Again, you need to make sure there’s at least two days that are alcohol-free.

Tips for low-risk drinking

There are a number of things you can do to keep drinking under control, including the following:

  • set limits for yourself and stick to them
  • start with a non-alcoholic drink (especially if you’re actually thirsty- get a glass of water into you first
  • try having a ‘spacer’ – alternating non-alcoholic drinks with alcoholic drinks, especially if you’re feeling the effect
  • drink slowly – take sips not gulps
  • try a low-alcohol alternative to a pre-mixed drink
  • eat before or while you are drinking, but avoid salty snacks, they make you thirsty
  • avoid round
  • finish one drink before you start another
  • avoid knocking drinks back and playing drinking games
  • stay busy – walk around or dance, don’t just sit and drink
  • be assertive – don’t be pressured into drinking more than you want.

Managing your drinking

If you’re worried about how much you’re drinking, what you’re like when you drink or if you can’t seem to stop, talk to someone about it. Loads of people are in a similar situation, so there’s a lot of advice out there and nothing to feel ashamed of.

Talk to a friend, a family member, doctor or a counsellor. Your GP is often a good place to start, or if you’re in college, the student’s union welfare officer will be able to help.

If you’re trying to cut down or quit, don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t meet your target at the beginning and keep trying. Check face-to-face help to find more about the help available for you.

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Alcohol Ireland and Ask About Alcohol for their facts on standard recommended alcohol intake.

This article was last reviewed on 15 August 2017

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