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alcohol health alliance uk


Here are some of our most frequently asked questions.

Q What is Balance?

Balance is the North East alcohol office and aims to improve the health of people in the North East of England and to make communities safer. This is achieved by encouraging people to change their attitude towards alcohol. Balance still wants people to enjoy themselves but to consume less and be aware of the dangers – both health and social.

Q Why was it set up?

The North East has one of the highest levels of alcohol consumption and the highest number of alcohol-related hospital admissions in the UK. Balance aims to reduce alcohol consumption in our region, improving the lives of people in the North East, resulting in healthier, happier and safer communities.

Q Who is it funded by?

Balance is funded by the 12 local authorities in the North East and also recieves the full time support of a police officer seconded from Durham Constabulary.

Q How much alcohol is too much?

In January 2016 the UK’s Chief Medical Officers launched new alcohol drinking guidelines following a comprehensive, independent review, the first to be carried out in 20 years.

The new guidelines recommend no more than 14 units a week for both men and women. There are two units in a standard 175ml glass of wine and three units in a pint of strong lager, beer or cider. It is best to spread the 14 units over three days or more as one or two heavy drinking sessions, increase your risks of death from long term illnesses and accidents and injuries.

Q How are the recommended limits calculated?

The new alcohol guidance is based on January 2016 recommendations from a group of independent experts, designed to allow people to make an informed choice about how much they drink.

The independent experts found strengthening evidence of the link between alcohol and cancer as well as heart and liver disease; and that on balance alcohol provides no health benefits and should be avoided during pregnancy or when trying to conceive. Many of the health risks associated with alcohol occur at relatively low levels of consumption for both men and women.

In addition, the guidelines aim to discourage people from drinking the weekly limit (14 units) all at once as heavy drinking sessions increase the risk of death from long term illnesses, accidents and injuries.


Q What are units?

We describe the pure alcohol content of a drink in units. One UK unit is 10ml (8g) of pure alcohol. The strength of any drink is described as the proportion of the drink's volume that is pure alcohol, using ‘alcohol by volume' or ABV.

One unit is the amount of pure alcohol in a 25ml single measure of spirits (ABV 40%), a third of a pint of beer (ABV 5 to 6%) or half a 175ml ‘standard' glass of red wine (ABV 12%). You can work out how many units there are in any drink by multiplying the total volume of the drink (ml) by its strength (ABV %) and dividing the result by 1,000. You'll need to know a drink's exact ABV, because different brands of the same volume may be stronger or weaker. You can find this information on the labels of cans and bottles, or you can ask bar staff. That way you can easily keep count and know your units when you're out drinking. 

Q What is binge drinking?

Binge drinking is essentially having a lot of alcohol in one go – usually meaning enough to get drunk or feel intoxicated. Researchers refer to drinking more than eight units of alcohol for men (three pints of strong beer) and more than six for women (two large glasses of wine) in one go or on one day as binge drinking. This is a helpful guide but not a final definition, everyone's tolerance for alcohol varies. The important thing is to avoid drinking until you feel drunk. Binge drinking is part of drinking culture for some, including many young people. It doesn't necessarily mean you have a drink problem, but it's a major factor in accidents, violence and anti-social behaviour.

Q What are the short-term effects of drinking too much?

In the short term, drinking above the recommended limits can result in anxiety, sexual difficulties such as impotence, impaired judgement leading to accidents and injuries, slowed breathing and heartbeat, loss of consciousness and potentially fatal poisoning.

Q What are the long-term effects?

Long-term health risks include high blood pressure, heart problems, stroke, mental health problems and liver damage.

Q If I am drinking too much does that mean Iím an alcoholic?

Not everyone who drinks too much is an alcoholic. But you also don't need to be an alcoholic for alcohol to have an imapct on you and those around you.

Q Where can I get support?

There are many different options if you're looking for a chat about your drinking or that of someone close to you. You can find out more in our Get Help section.