Ireland has high levels of alcohol consumption and four out of five adults drink alcohol. However, it is important to remember that alcohol is not an ordinary product and can be harmful to your health and wellbeing.

The risk to your health and wellbeing from alcohol increases in line with how much you drink and it is important to understand alcohol's impact on our health and how much alcohol is considered to be low-risk, so you can make an informed decision about your drinking. 

What is a standard drink?

In Ireland a standard drink has about 10 grams of pure alcohol in it. In the UK a standard drink, also called a unit of alcohol, has about 8 grams of pure alcohol.

Here are some examples of a standard drink.

  • A pub measure of spirits (35.5ml)
  • A small glass of wine (12.5% volume)
  • A half pint of normal beer
  • An alcopop (275ml bottle)

A bottle of wine at 12.5% alcohol contains about seven standard drinks.

What are the low-risk drinking guidelines?

Low risk weekly guidelines for adults are:

  • up to 11 standard drinks in a week for women, and
  • up to 17 standard drinks in a week for men.

Drinks should be spaced out over the week, not consumed in one sitting. Drinking more than the safe levels may cause harm.

Remember, drinks measures are not always the same. What you get in a pub and what you pour for yourself could be very different.

These weekly limits do not apply to teenagers or to people who are pregnant, ill, run-down or on medication. It is healthier for teenagers not to drink alcohol.

What is a binge?

Binge drinking is a term used to describe an occasion when we drink too much. It is when we have 6 or more standard drinks. Binge drinking is a form of harmful drinking that is likely to increase our risk of accidents, injuries, violence and poisoning.

Having more than 5 standard drinks at a time can seriously increase the harmful effects of drinking.

How long do the effects of drinking last?

In general you start to feel the effects of alcohol within 5 or 10 minutes of drinking. It then takes about one hour for every standard drink you take to work through your system.

Tips for drinking less

Going out tonight? Here are some tips on how you can drink less.

  • Don’t drink alcohol before you go out.
  • Buy smaller drinks – have a glass instead of a pint, a single instead of a double.
  • Leave your glass down between sips. 
  • Wait a while before getting another drink.
  • Have a glass of water or try some alcohol free beers, larger or cocktails in between alcoholic drinks.
  • Occupy yourself – play pool, dance, chat.
  • Try not to get into rounds – or if you can’t avoid a round buy yourself a non alcoholic drink when it is your turn.
  • Don’t play drinking games.
Home measures

Home measures tend to be a lot larger than pub ones.  If you are offered a drink when visiting someone, try a bottle or a can instead of a short.  It is easier to watch what you are having.  

Know your limits

If you are honest, you know the point where you start to lose control, or behave differently because of alcohol.  Your main target should be not to have more than this.

To find out more about alcohol visit

A quick question

A quick questionFrom December 1st the HSE will screen people in 4 hospital emergency departments for harmful and hazardous drinking patterns. If people attending have hazardous drinking patterns they will be offered brief advice and information on service available in their locality.

The aim of this initiative is to intervene at an early stage and reduce the number of people progressing to alcohol dependence. International evidence is that there are great benefits to be had from this type of prevention programme.

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