Steps to Cope - An online resource for young people and professionals

Alcohol Use


 What Is Alcohol

Alcohol itself is a colourless chemical; it can be made from almost anything that has sugar in it. For example, beer is made from barley, cider from apples, wine from grapes, whiskey from grain. Depending on what they are made from, and how they are made, different drinks have different amounts of alcohol in them. Beer and cider can be 2% to 7% alcohol; wines 9% to 15%; and spirits, like whiskey and vodka, are often 40% alcohol. These percentages are ‘Alcohol by Volume’. On bottles you may see this shortened to ‘ABV’ next to the percentage number. 

Alcohol plays a part in many of our lives, yet it’s surprising how little people know about its contents. Alcohol is one of the world’s most widely used drug. A glass of wine with dinner, a beer after work, a cocktail in the sunshine on holiday, alcohol makes an appearance in so many parts of our lives; it can be easy to forget that, like many drugs, it’s addictive, both physically and psychologically.

How Much Is Too Much?

The World Health Organisation has set guidelines in place to encourage us to keep our alcohol intake within sensible levels.  To do this, we need to keep track of the number of units we are consuming.

Units of alcohol are the measure of the volume of pure alcohol in an alcoholic benerage. One unit is 10 mms of pure alcohol. 

Women and Men differ in their ability to process alcohol in the body and therefore we have different guideline amounts.





Men should drink no more than 21 units of alcohol per week, no more than four units in any one day, and have at least two alcohol-free days a week.



Women should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week, no more than three units in any one day, and have at least two alcohol-free days a week.




 Advice from the Department of Health states that ... "pregnant women or women trying to conceive should not drink alcohol at all. If they do choose to drink, to minimise the risk to the baby, they should not drink more than 1-2 units of alcohol once or twice a week and should not get drunk".


Binge Drinking

Binge drinking is when someone drinks too much alcohol in a short space of time. this can happen every so often, or regularly. Not only is binge drinking bad for the individual's health, but it can also be a concerning and challenging time and experience for family members too.

Alcohol Addiction

Alcoholism is commonly used to describe being addicted to alcohol. Other words and phrases that may be used to describe this include, alcohol dependency, alcohol dependence, or alcohol addiction.



No-one plans to become addicted. It can develop very slowly over time.

Characteristics of addiction can be:

  • Loss of control over the drug’s use
  • The use of alcohol becomes the most important thing
  • Compulsion to use – the person gets locked into only seeing the benefits and not the harm it will do.
  • Withdrawal – the person’s body reacts to the drug leaving the body
  • Continuing to use alcohol despite serious consequence that arise.

However, someone doesn't have to be addicted or dependent on alcohol for it to negatively impact on their or their families life.




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