Know your alcohol limits during the festive season

Drinking too much alcohol can have long-term effects on health. If you drink, think about setting limits for yourself and keep an eye on how many drinks you're having over the festive season. It’s also important not to binge drink.

Drinking guidelines

Christmas and New Year is a great time to relax and meet up with family, friends and work colleagues to celebrate, but it is very easy to overindulge.

Alcohol guidelines recommend that both men and women drink no more than 14 units a week, to keep health risks from drinking alcohol to a low level.

If you do drink as much as 14 units a week, it's best to spread this evenly over three days or more – don't ‘save up’ your units for a particular day or a party.

Binge drinking is associated with particular risks to health, including damage to the liver, heart, brain and stomach. 

You can find out more the how alcohol affects your health page.

If you're pregnant, or are trying for a baby, as a precaution you should not drink any alcohol at all.

Tips and advice

Some tips for managing your drinking:

  • eat before or while drinking and avoid salty snacks, which make you thirsty
  • be assertive – don’t be pressured into drinking more than you want or intend to
  • know your limits and stick to them
  • stay busy, don't just sit and drink - dance or have a game of pool if you're at a pub
  • try not to confuse large measures of alcohol with standard measures (for example, a glass of wine served at a party or at home may be much larger than the standard 125ml)
  • keep track of your drinks and don't let people top up your drink until it's finished
  • try alternating alcoholic drinks with water or other non-alcoholic drinks
  • add plenty of mixer to your drinks to make them last longer
  • avoid rounds, ‘shouts’ and kitties – drink at your own pace, not someone else's
  • drink slowly – take sips, not gulps
  • don't mix alcohol with any other drugs, including prescription medication

Drinking too much can make you lose your inhibitions and affect your judgement. This could lead you to do things you wouldn’t otherwise do and might regret later, such as fighting, public disorder, or falling causing injury.

You may also take more risks when it comes to sex, such as not using a condom. This increases your chances of getting a sexually-transmitted infection such as chlamydia, HIV or hepatitis. It could also lead to an unplanned pregnancy.

It’s important to plan ahead, prepare for the possibility of sex, and carry condoms.

Mental health 

Alcohol can also affect your mental health and emotional wellbeing. If you're hungover you can feel anxious and low.

Some people may feel down over Christmas and New Year, and drinking can make this worse.

If you think someone might be in need of immediate help, find out what to do at the page below:

If you or someone you know is in distress or despair, call Lifeline on:

  • phone: 0808 808 8000

The helpline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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