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Generally, telling adults what to do doesn’t go well – so some people get quite annoyed at the idea that there are guidelines which ‘tell’ them how much to drink.

The good news is that that that’s not what the Chief Medical Officers’ low-risk drinking guidelines are for. They’re there to help you make decisions about how much to drink, through letting you know what low-risk drinking looks like.

But why were the guidelines revised in 2016?

Well, before 2016 the guidelines were last revised in 1995 – and we know quite a lot more about alcohol since then, particularly about how even moderate alcohol use can affect health. So the Chief Medical Officers – who are the top doctors in the UK – decided to make two key changes:

  • To change the low-risk maximum number of units to the same level for both men and women
  • To advise that pregnant women don’t drink at all – rather than recommending that they drink only a little as they did before

“But Alcohol Concern,” we hear you say, “I can handle my drink. These guidelines don’t apply the same to everyone, do they?” Alcohol does affect people in different ways, for a whole lot of reasons. But these guidelines are to do with risk – if you drink less than 14 units a week, you reduce your chances of dying from and alcohol-related disease to less than 1%. That applies the same to everyone.

So what do the guidelines say? Check out this handy infographic:



What if you read this and are worried you’re drinking too much?

There are lots of small behavioural changes you can make to cut back:

  • Keep a drinks diary to keep track of how much you’re consuming
  • Avoid drinking in rounds
  • Take more alcohol-free days
  • Do more activities that don’t involve alcohol

If you would like to keep track of your drinking, and get advice and tips for cutting down, download our Dry January & Beyond app (available for Apple and Android).

To get a sense of whether you might be drinking at hazardous or harmful levels, try taking our alcohol audit.

And if you’re really worried, a good first step is to talk to your GP for confidential advice.

Further support

  • If you think you and/or someone you know may be drinking too much, contact Drinkline (England) on 0300 123 1110 or Dan24/7 (Wales) on 0808 808 2234
  • Al-Anon provides support to anyone whose life is, or has been, affected by someone else’s drinking. Visit
  • You can find more support services through Adfam. Visit

Read statistics about alcohol.

This blog was published as part of Alcohol Awareness Week 2017. To read more blogs from the week, click here.