Alcohol - Health Committee Contents

Terminology used in this report

CategoryAlcohol consumption in men Alcohol consumption in women
Low risk or 'sensible' Up to 21 units/weekUp to 14 units/week
Increasing risk or 'hazardous' 22-50 units/week15-35 units/week
High risk or 'harmful' >50 units/week>35 units/week

A unit of alcohol is defined as 8g or 10 ml of alcohol

The Government's suggested daily limits are 3-4 units for men and 2-3 units for women but as this potentially blurs the distinction between low risk and hazardous drinking we have used the weekly guidelines above for consistency.

Low risk alcohol use

This refers to drinking within legal and medical guidelines, which is not likely to result in alcohol-related problems.

Alcohol misuse

Alcohol misuse is a general term for any level of risk, ranging from hazardous drinking to alcohol dependence.

Hazardous drinking

A pattern of drinking alcohol that increases the risk of harmful consequences for the person. This term is used for males who regularly consume more than 21 units per week and females who regularly consume more than 14 units per week

Harmful drinking

A pattern of drinking alcohol that causes harm to a person's health or wellbeing. The harm may be physical, psychological or social. In the absence of evidence of harm, this term is used to describe males who regularly consume more than 50 units per week and females who regularly consume more than 35 units per week.

Binge drinking

Binge drinking refers to high intensity drinking during a single drinking session. It is strongly associated with intoxication or drunkenness. Binge drinking was defined in the 1995 UK government report as drinking twice the daily limit for alcohol consumption (i.e. 8+ units for men/ 6+ for women) in one day.

Alcohol dependence

Alcohol dependence (syndrome) is a psychobiological condition characterized by an inner drive to consume alcohol, continued drinking despite harm and commonly a withdrawal state upon stopping drinking.

Alcohol use disorder

An alcohol use disorder has been defined as hazardous, harmful or dependent drinking.[1]

1   For a more detailed discussion of terminology, see AL 27. Back

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Prepared 8 January 2010