Alcohol Awareness Week 2019 - Know your units and know your limit

alcohol mot

This Alcohol Awareness Week (17-23 June), drinkers are being encouraged to take a closer look at their drinking habits and count their units to see if they’re staying within the recommended weekly limits.

The Public Health Agency (PHA) and Northern Ireland’s five Drug and Alcohol Coordination Teams (DACTs) are asking people to take stock, give themselves an “alcohol MOT” and be aware of the 14 unit per week limit.

Kelly Gilliland, Health Improvement Manager at the PHA, said: “Many of us enjoy a drink when at home or out with friends, but we need to be aware of the effect that alcohol can have on us and those around us particularly when we drink to excess.

“Over three-quarters of adults in Northern Ireland drink alcohol, but consuming too much can seriously affect our health. A good starting point is to look at how much you do drink, and the PHA website has an interactive alcohol MOT where you can check how many units you drink and its possible impact.

“The recommendation is that both men and women drink no more than 14 units per week and that its best to spread your units evenly over three days or more. You can't ‘save up’ your units for a particular day or a party.”

Many people might use alcohol to relax, but, instead of helping us to cope, excess amounts can have an immediate and long-term negative impact on our lives.

Kelly continued: “In the short term, the undesirable effects of drinking too much can include symptons such as vomiting and hangovers. However, more serious risks from drinking heavily can include, damage to vital organs, falls or accidents that can result in injury.

“Drinking too much can also affect our judgement, leading us to do things we wouldn’t otherwise do and that we might regret later. These can include unplanned sexual activity, fertility, relationship diffiuclties, fighting, or spoiling events for you, your family and friends.

“It is therefore important that people start to understand their drinking behaviour and explore their relationship with alcohol.

“Small changes can make a big difference.”

Alcohol Awareness Week top tips:

  • Understand how much you’re drinking by taking the alcohol MOT –
  • learn how many units are in your chosen drink – visit and download the ‘Know Your Units’ app;
  • when drinking at home measure and track your alcohol intake by using one of our newly produced ‘Know Your Units’ cups;
  • always look after yourself and know what your limits are;
  • have something to eat before you start drinking to slow down the absorption of alcohol;
  • alternate each alcoholic drink with a non-alcoholic drink, for example, water or a soft drink;
  • take frequent five minute breaks from drinking to give your body time to recover;
  • avoid drinking in rounds or having a kitty as this may result in you drinking more;
  • keep track of your drinks and don’t let anyone top up your drink until it’s finished; 
  • if a friend does drink too much, don't leave them alone or let them wander off, rather, encourage them to rehydrate with non-alcoholic drinks; and
  • never add drugs into the mix.

Visit the PHA and NIDACTS social media pages more tips and advice during Alcohol Awareness week:


Notes to editor

Statistics from the 2017/18 NI Health Survey, published by the Department for Health, show that:

  • 77% of adults aged 18 and over her drink alcohol
  • 31% of men said they drink above the weekly alcohol limits
  • 20% of men said they drink on three or more days per week
  • 9% of women say they drink above the weekly alcohol limits
  • 10% of women said they drink on three or more days per week.