Alcohol units: what are they and why do they matter? 

Current guidelines suggest both men and women drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week. But what is a unit of alcohol and how many are in the beverages we like to drink? 

What’s an alcohol unit? 

Units measure the amount of pure alcohol in a serving. As alcoholic beverages vary in volume and strength, it can be difficult to work out how many units we’re consuming. It’s important to monitor our intake for our own health and safety.  

1 unit = 10ml/8g of pure alcohol. We can work out how many units are in an alcoholic drink using the following formula: ABV (%) x Volume (ml) ÷ 1000.  

ABV shows the amount of pure alcohol in a drink as a percentage of the total volume.  A 175ml glass of 13% wine contains 2.28 units. Here’s how we worked that out: 

13 x 175 = 2,275  

2,275 ÷ 1000 = 2.28 units   

What does 14 units look like? 

Here are a few examples of the volume of drinks that add up to 14 units of alcohol: 

  • 6 pints of 4% beer. 
  • 6 x 175ml glasses of 13% wine. 
  • 14 x 25ml glasses of spirits.  

There is no ‘safe’ amount of alcohol to consume, only recommended limits that should reduce our risk of developing alcohol-related illness or harm. Current guidance suggests spreading our unit consumption over 3+ days and regularly having alcohol-free days each week will help us further. 

How can I track what I’m drinking? 

If you want to keep track of the number of units you’re drinking, you can use a free app like Mydrinkaware, created by Drinkaware who are an independent charity that aims to reduce alcohol-related harm by helping people make better choices about their drinking. 

How many units can I drink then drive safely afterwards? 

According to the DVLA, there’s no one answer to this because of the different ways people process alcohol. For many, 2 pints of lager or 2 glasses of wine can put them over the drink-drive limit. Bearing this is mind, it’s best not to drink alcohol at all if you need to drive.  


Thinking about a change in your drinking habits? You’re not alone. Join our free Drink Less programme and receive the compassionate support, guidance, and expertise you need. Whether you aim to stop drinking or simply want to reduce your intake for a healthier lifestyle, we’re here to help you every step of the way.


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