Drinking too much alcohol can not only increase the risk of developing an alcohol use disorder but can increase the risk of developing a plethora of physical health issues including different types of cancer and organ damage.
If you wish to drink alcohol safely, you must understand how to monitor your alcohol intake. To do this, you need to be able to determine how many units of alcohol you’re drinking when you are consuming alcoholic drinks.
This is something we can help with on this page. Read on to learn more about alcohol units, including what an alcohol unit is and how many units are in certain types of alcohol. We’ll also be exploring how many units is too much, and how to drink alcohol safely.
Chances are, you’ve heard of the term ‘unit’ when purchasing alcohol. Units were first introduced in the UK back in 1987 as a method of measuring the amount of pure alcohol in your beverage; or the alcohol strength.
Essentially, units of alcohol are a simple way of determining the quantity of pure alcohol in an alcoholic drink.
The higher the number of units in the alcoholic drink, the more pure alcohol in the drink. Units also help to establish the higher limits of alcohol that are considered safe for consumption.
An alcohol unit contains 10 ml/ 8g of 100% proof alcohol. What is classed as a unit differs in the United States than it does in the UK – a US unit is around 77% greater than the UK definition.
Typically speaking, the average adult can metabolise a single unit of alcohol defined by the UK government in one hour. However, this can vary depending on factors such as your body weight, metabolism, liver, or how much food you’ve eaten.
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ABV refers to alcohol by volume. It is a measure of how much alcohol is contained in a volume of drink, expressed as a percentage of the entire drink sold.
For example, many bottles of vodka will have an ABV of 37% – 40%, meaning that there is 40% of pure alcohol/ ethanol in the bottle. Likewise, if the label of a beer bottle says it contains 4.5% ABV, the beer bottle contains 4.5% alcohol.
Now you have an understanding of what units are, let’s discuss how many alcohol units there are in different alcoholic drinks, including spirits, wine, and beer/ cider.
However, it’s important to bear in mind that a bottle of alcohol from one brand may have fewer or more units than a similar bottle of alcohol from another brand. Different types of alcohol will have different strength.
To determine the number of units of alcohol in your drink, whether it be vodka, whiskey, gin, or more, you need to know the measure. Are you drinking a single measure or a double measure?
Spirits are either typically served in a single measure or a double measure. Single measures of alcohol are 25ml, and double measures are 50ml. However, some bars and pubs tend to serve spirits in 35ml.
A single 25ml measure is about one unit of alcohol – which makes a double measure about two units.
You can determine the units in a spirit by using the following formula:
ABV x ml ÷ 1000 = units
For example, to work out the number of units in a double rum and coke with 40% ABV rum:
40 x 50ml ÷ 1000 = 2 units
40% ABV Spirits unit guide
1x Single 25ml measure = 1.0 Unit
1x 35ml measure = 1.4 Units
1x Double 50ml measure = 2.0 Units
In terms of bottles of wine, a 750 ml bottle of 10% ABV wine is 7.5 units, 12% wine is 9 units, 13% wine is 9.75 units, and a bottle of 20% port or sherry is 15 units.
However, in terms of glasses, a small glass (125ml) of 12% wine contains around 1.5 units, whereas a standard glass/ medium glass of wine (175ml) contains roughly 2.1 units of alcohol. A large glass of wine (250ml)will have approximately 3 units of alcohol.
The number of alcohol units in beer, lager and cider can vary depending on the ABV. The average strength beer is around 4% – and a pint of 4% ABV beer, cider or lager has roughly 2.3 units.
However, a lower-strength beer at 3.6% ABV will have 2 units, and a strong lager/ beer/ cider at 5.2% ABV will have three units.
The units also differ when you change from a pint to a bottle or a can. For example, a bottle of 5% beer (330ml) has around 1.7 units, whereas a can of 5% beer (500ml) has around 2.8 units of alcohol.
When it comes to how much alcohol you can safely drink, there is no clear answer. However, there are certain drinking recommendations you can follow to lower the health risks.
The Government recommendations on units can vary depending on your gender. If you are male, you should not drink more than 3-4 units of alcohol per day and have no more than 14 units a week. This is around a pint and a half of beer (4% ABV) per day.
However, if you’re female, you should not have more than 2-3 units of alcohol per day. Women are usually advised to drink less alcohol than men due to women having less water in their bodies available to dilute alcohol.
At Help4Addiction, we always recommend that you follow drinking guidelines and have at least several drink-free days.
Alcohol abuse – drinking alcohol in excessive amounts – is a huge problem in the UK, with 18.1% of adults drinking at an increased risk in the three months nearing the end of October 2021. This equates to around a million people drinking above the ‘safe’ limits.
The UK’s Chief Medical Officers advise that men and women can reduce the short-term health risksfrom a single drinking occasion by:
Be sure to download our helpful alcohol drinks journal, which will aid you in moderating your drinking efforts.
If you are struggling to control your alcohol consumption, or you regularly drink excessive units of alcohol and feel as though you can’t stop binge drinking, we can help. At Help4Addiction, we can connect you with the right rehab clinic for you.
Whether you’re looking for an inpatient rehab/ residential rehab program or outpatient rehab plan, we can help. Likewise, if you’re looking for an alcohol detox, we are on hand to determine the right path forward for you, whether it be an inpatient medical detox or an at-home detox.
We can provide you with all the advice and guidance you need to make the right decision for your future. Nobody should deal with addiction alone, which is why we dedicate ourselves to helping people receive the treatment they deserve.
Nicholas Conn is a leading industry addiction expert who runs the UK’s largest addiction advisory service and is regularly featured in the national press, radio and TV. He is the founder and CEO of a drug and alcohol rehab center called Help4addiction, which was founded in 2015. He has been clean himself since 2009 and has worked in the Addiction and Rehab Industry for over a decade. Nick is dedicated to helping others recover and get treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. In 2013, he released a book ‘The Thin White’ line that is available on Amazon.
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