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Alcohol - Reducing Harms Programme

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 physical and mental health.

The risk 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. 

The HSE has published a comprehensive website and communiations campaign for the public on alcohol – about how much we’re drinking, how it affects us healthwise, and how we can gain more by drinking less. AskAboutAlcohol.ie is the first HSE website that provides dedicated information about alcohol risk and offers support and guidance to anyone who wants to cut back on their drinking.                                                                                                                                                                      

Comprehensive surveys show that harmful drinking patterns have become the norm for many people in Ireland, while awareness of the significant risk associated with these drinking patterns remains low. 

Visit www.askaboutalcohol.ie to learn more.

What is a standard drink?

In Ireland, a standard drink has about ten grams of pure alcohol in it. In Northern Ireland, a standard drink, also called a unit of alcohol, has about eight 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, with two to three alcohol free days per week.

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 six 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 five 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 five or ten minutes of drinking.  It then takes about one hour for every standard drink you take to work through your system.

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 www.askaboutalcohol.ie

Click here to read publications on alcohol.