What is a unit of alcohol?
A unit of alcohol is a way to determine how much alcohol you are consuming. It is more accurate to count units rather than glasses/bottles as varying drink sizes and alcohol types can contain different amounts of alcohol. One unit refers to 10mL or 8g of alcohol. So regardless of whether you are drinking beer, wine or spirits, the measure of 1 unit of alcohol remains. The thing to look out for is serving sizes and percentage alcohol content.
In the UK, it is recommended that men and women drink no more than 14 units of alcohol a week on a regular basis in order to keep alcohol related health risks low. It is best to spread out your drinking over the week and do not consume it all over 1 or 2 days.
As a quick guide, 1 unit of alcohol is equal to:
218mL of standard cider (4.5% alc.vol)
76mL of standard wine (13% alc. vol)
25mL standard whisky (40% alc. vol)
250mL standrad beer (4% alc. vol)
250mL standrad alcopop (4% alc. vol)
Just minutes after taking your first sip, alcohol gets into your bloodstream via your stomach and goes to every part of your body – that includes your brain, liver, heart, nerves and muscles. Your reactions slow down and you might start to feel more relaxed, chatty and confident.
A few more drinks down and you’ll probably feel a bit tipsy as your brain and nervous system is affected. You’ll feel more reckless and uninhibited and your reaction time will be much slower too – this can be a dangerous combination.
After 6-8 units
By this stage your speech might be slurry, you may feel nauseous and your vision will be less focussed.
After 9-10 units
Your co-ordination by now will be majorly affected and your risk of injury will have rocketed. You’ll probably find your digestion is suffering and nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea are all likely. A hangover is now also a sure thing as your liver will struggle to cope with this amount of alcohol.
If you’re still awake, you’ll no doubt be feeling pretty tired and lousy. You’re now at high risk of alcohol poisoning – especially if you’ve drunk over a short period of time without eating or drinking any soft drinks. Symptoms of alcohol poisoning include confusion, vomiting, clammy, pale or blueish skin, seizures and unconsciousness. In serious cases alcohol poisoning can lead to choking on vomit, coma and even death. If you suspect someone has alcohol poisoning call emergency services immediately and never leave them alone to ‘sleep it off’.
No-one wants to get to the point where they’re sick, falling over and embarrassing themselves. But often as you drink more, your willpower fails and one or two drinks can turn into five or six. Drinking plenty of water, eating before drinking alcohol and drinking slowly will help you to stay in control and reduce the damage to your health.
Written by Ruth Tongue