Would n’t it be lovely to know just how much drinking is safe drinking. There’s plenty of debate around this. Some of which we’ve found very confusing.
To make matters worse, the language is all really technical from safe drinking, low risk, units to standard drinks. So we did some international research and spoke to the HSE, the Irish Government Health care provider to try and make it simple. This is what they all said.
There is no safe drinking
The latest evidence says there is no safe drinking. Earlier studies showing there are health benefits from a glass of wine a day have been reviewed and some of the results are now seen as wrong. Also the health benefits found can be obtained in less risky ways by changing your diet. So leading experts are saying there is no safe drinking limit. So now it’s all about “low risk” drinking using “standard drinks”.
What are standard drinks?
Different drinks have different levels of alcohol or ethanol to give the proper name. This can range from 5% in some beers or 40% in some vodkas. So to avoid comparing apples with oranges, drinks are now described as standard drinks measured using ethanol per 10 grams. I’ll come back to this in a future post. So now standard drinks are used to explain low risk drinking.
What is low risk drinking?
Low risk drinking for women is 11 standard drinks per week. This is roughly about a large bottle of wine plus one of the quarter bottles you buy in the pub per week. (See picture below.) For men low risk drinking is 17 units per week.
We nearly had to be picked up off the floor
When we learned this, we nearly had to be picked off the floor. It seems so low.
Many women drink their weekly limit in a day or two.
You’re probably thinking sure everybody’s misusing alcohol at that rate. And you’re absolutely right. According to the Health Research Board, more than half of us are misusing alcohol.
Why are these drinking limits so low?
You’re probably thinking if drinking is so dangerous it would n’t be such a big part of our lives, would it?
Well in the 1960’s, drinking was not such a big part of our lives. On average every person drank around 5 litres. Now we drink around 11 litres per person. (See Alcohol Action Ireland website here for details) The really serious harm from this is now becoming clearer. However attitudes are changing and the majority of Irish people believe we need to reduce our drinking and change our attitudes.(See report here)
So you’re not alone
If you think you’re drinking too much and want to change your drinking, you’re not alone. Why not check out our new video where Valerie explains how to drink in a way that reduces your risk of future harm and set your personal drinking limit.
PS Don’t give up, there’s good news!
Before you give up and run away, because this seems totally off the wall, there is some good news. Once you start reducing your drinking you start reducing the risks straight away. So you might not feel able for “low risk” drinking but there’s lots of little actions you can take to reduce possible harm. Our free mini course with practical tips can help. Click here to start right away