Low-risk drinking guidelines

Many people consider themselves to be moderate drinkers. In reality, they are drinking more than the low-risk guidelines.

In 2020, 9.4 litres (L) of pure alcohol were sold per adult in Scotland. This is equivalent to 18 units per adult per week.

The Chief Medical Officers’ guidelines for both men and women are:

  • to keep health risks from alcohol to a low level it is safest not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis
  • if you regularly drink as much as 14 units per week, it is best to spread your drinking evenly over 3 or more days
  • if you have 1 or 2 heavy drinking episodes a week, you increase your risks of death from long term illness and from accidents and injuries
  • the risk of developing a range of health problems, including cancers of the mouth, throat and breast, increases the more you drink on a regular basis
  • if you want to cut down the amount you drink, a good way is to have several drink-free days each week

The likelihood of alcohol damaging your health depends on how much you drink: 14 units is the equivalent of 6 pints of beer (4% ABV), 6 medium size glasses of wine (13.4% ABV) or 7 double measures of spirits (40%).

If you drink less than 14 units a week, this is considered low-risk drinking.

View the full UK Chief Medical Officers' Low Risk Drinking Guidelines.

Last updated:
04 January 2023

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