The risks of drinking too much

Alcohol is a toxic chemical that can have a wide range of adverse effects on almost every part of your body.

The effects of alcohol can vary.

Sometimes you feel the effects almost instantly. Other times this can take longer and might be after you've had a few drinks.

What affects alcohol's impact?

Many things can affect the impact alcohol has on you, including:

  • what you've eaten
  • what mood you are in
  • how much sleep you've had

This is important for helping you to know and understand how many units you have consumed.

Don't risk your health

Drinking more than the low-risk guidelines on a regular basis increases your risk of serious health conditions.

Regular or frequent drinking means having alcohol most weeks and the more you drink the higher the risks to your health.

Serious risks include:

  • cancers of the mouth, upper throat, larynx, oesophagus, breast, liver and bowel - Cancer Research UK can provide further information on alcohol and cancer
  • stroke
  • heart disease
  • liver disease
  • damage to the nervous system
  • pancreatitis
  • mental health problems

Binge drinking

Drinking a lot of alcohol in a single occasion, sometimes called ‘binge drinking’, is especially harmful and can increase your risk of:

  • accidents resulting in injury or death
  • misjudging risky situations
  • losing your inhibitions 
  • increased risk-taking
  • making decisions you usually would not
  • becoming a victim or a perpetrator of crime
  • self-harm
  • suicide

Social issues

Drinking too much alcohol could also contribute to social problems like: 

  • unemployment
  • relationship breakdowns
  • domestic abuse
  • homelessness

Reducing the health risks of alcohol

To reduce your health risks on any single occasion:

  • limit how much you drink
  • drink more slowly
  • drink with food
  • alternate alcoholic drinks with water or non-alcoholic drinks

Not sure about alcohol units?

Try the Scottish Government's alcohol unit generator and alcohol unit calculator.

Last updated:
04 January 2023

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