Responsible Drinking

If you drink within responsible drinking guidelines, there is unlikely to be any significant health risk. However, the effects of alcohol build up through drinking too much over time as well as from drinking too much in one episode.

It’s important to know that most people who suffer from alcohol-related health problems are those who drink heavily – at or above responsible drinking levels – over time, or have frequent episodes of drinking at or above this level.

Tolerance does not protect you from harm.

Problems which can result from prolonged use of alcohol can include:

  • weight gain
  • skin problems
  • sexual difficulties and fertility problems
  • a range of physical and mental health problems outlined later in this booklet
  • family and work problems

There is some research which suggests that, in middle-aged people who drink already, there may even be some benefits from drinking small amounts, for example in the prevention of coronary heart disease. For middle-aged men, drinking one or two units of alcohol a day may help prevent this disease and for women, drinking one or two units of alcohol a week may also be beneficial as coronary heart disease is more common in post-menopausal women.

However, a non-drinker should not start drinking, or an infrequent drinker increase their drinking, simply to benefit their heart. There are other strategies which have fewer harmful side effects, and drinking large quantities outweighs any benefits.

Recent statistics show that about 1,060 people are injured and 50 people are killed in Scotland every year as a result of drinking and driving. On average, 740 accidents in Scotland each year involve the driver/rider having an illegal alcohol level. (These figures are 2002–2006 averages).

Recent statistics show that there were 10,697 drink-driving offences in Scotland in the year 2007–2008.

Responsible Drinking FAQs

Q. What is the legal limit?

UK law says that it is an offence to drive with more than 80 mg of alcohol in every 100 ml of blood, but the level in most European countries is 50 mg.

Q. But how does drink affect you?

There is no simple answer to this question. How alcohol affects you depends a lot on your age, gender, whether or not you have eaten anything and if you are taking other drugs. It’s best just not to drink at all if you are going to drive.

Q. Can you tell if you are safe to drive?

You can’t. Alcohol affects your mind. It makes you feel more confident, so you are less likely to make a balanced decision about whether or not to drive. It also reduces your inhibitions so you may be more likely to take risks and to react violently when you are driving.

Q. How does alcohol affect driving?

Alcohol slows down the brain and so:

  • your ability to concentrate is reduced
  • your ability to judge speed and distance, and to deal with the unexpected, is impaired
  • your reaction time is slower
  • your vision and awareness become blurred, especially in the dark
  • you can lose muscle control and coordination

This means that you are far more likely to have an accident.

Information on this page taken from Health Scotland.

Full Information for booklet ISBN: 978-1-84485-324-3