What Is An Alcohol Unit?

Published by John Gillen | Last updated: 3rd April 2023 | All Sources

The humble unit of alcohol is by no means a new concept in the United Kingdom.

If you have ever consumed alcohol, you will likely understand the concept of alcohol units or at least have noted how many units of alcohol features in a single drink.

However, with a plethora of information surrounding alcohol units, you may still find yourself questioning “what is an alcohol unit?”.

If this resonates with you, at Cassiobury Court, we have provided insight into what alcohol units are, the development of alcohol units and alcohol units in the UK here.


What Exactly Is An Alcohol Unit?

Although many understand that alcoholic drinks contain a certain number of alcohol units, many find themselves lacking knowledge of what an alcohol unit actually is.

Put simply, an alcohol unit is another way to express how much alcohol is featured within an alcoholic drink. In one unit of alcohol, the NHS claims that there are 10ml of pure alcohol. This is the amount of alcohol that the liver can successfully filter in one hour.


The Development Of Alcohol Units

In the United Kingdom, alcohol units were developed in the late 1980s by the Government in a bid to ensure that individual’s reviewed how much alcohol they consumed on a daily and weekly basis.

Initially, men and women in the UK were advised to consume no more than 56 units of alcohol per week.  However, as health issues relating to alcohol consumption have been continuously reviewed, the number of recommended alcohol units has drastically reduced.

At present, men and women are advised to drink no more than 14 units each week. Yet, many continue to consume over the recommended amount of weekly alcohol units, often in a relatively short space of time.

Sadly, this increases the chance that individuals will develop an unhealthy relationship with alcohol and gradually find themselves living with an addiction.


Alcohol Units In The UK

The alcoholic content of one unit varies from country to country, and currently, no international standard exists.

As touched on above, in the UK, men and women are advised not to exceed 14 units of alcohol each week.  This typically equates to consuming no more than three units of alcohol a day.


How Many Alcohol Units Are In Alcoholic Drinks?

When asking “what is an alcohol unit?” many go on to contemplate how many alcohol units can be found in the drinks they may turn to frequently.  Sadly, when considering how many alcohol units are found in one drink, the answer is not as simple as many think.

For example, the number of alcohol units found in a single drink will depend entirely on the drink’s size, type of drink, and strength.

To offer you greater insight, we have outlined the number of units that are found in various drinks below.

  • Small glasses of wine (125ml) contain 1.5 units of alcohol
  • A small glass of Champagne and Prosecco (125ml) contains 1.5 units of alcohol
  • Standard glasses of wine (175ml) contain 2.1 units of alcohol
  • Large glasses of wine (250ml) contain 3 units of alcohol
  • A pint of beer, lager or cider typically contains 2 units of alcohol
  • Alcopops such as Wkd and Smirnoff Ice (275ml) contain 1.5 units of alcohol
  • Spirits such as Vodka, Tequila and Whisky (25ml) contain 1 unit of alcohol
  • Mixed drinks containing spirits such as Gin and Tonic contain up to 2 units of alcohol
  • Cocktails often contain up to 3 units of alcohol per drink


Why Do Alcohol Units Exist?

Although you may well appreciate that alcohol units were introduced to the Great British public in order to control the amount of alcohol that an individual consumes, you may question why alcohol units exist.

In addition to ensuring that individuals are aware of how much alcohol they consume, alcohol units exist to minimise the ramifications that overconsumption of alcohol units have on the body and brain.

Research conducted by medical professionals has concluded that it takes the liver an hour to process one unit of alcohol into harmless by products such as water and oxygen, which are later expelled from the body in the form of urine.

Sadly, as large quantities of alcohol are consumed, the liver often struggles to process alcohol, which in turn sees alcohol enter the bloodstream.  Regrettably, as alcohol enters an individual’s bloodstream, various short and long-term health complications are often experienced.


The Risks Associated With Overconsumption of Alcohol Units

Having provided answers to the question “what is an alcohol unit?” it is essential to consider the risks associated with consuming over the recommended amount of alcohol units.

As touched on above, there are various short and long-term health complications associated with consuming large amounts of alcohol.

Although short-term complications such as blurred vision, headaches and confusion usually alleviate naturally, long-term health complications of consuming excess alcohol units, such as liver damage and risk of mental health disorders, can have various repercussions on an individual’s physical and psychological health.


Seek Support For Alcohol Abuse and Addictions

Sadly, as many people across the United Kingdom turn to alcohol in social settings and to relieve stress, alcohol units are often left ignored.  This sees thousands of individual’s over consuming alcohol and, as touched on above, at risk of developing alcohol-related illnesses and addictions.

If you are worried that you have developed an addiction to alcohol as a result of consuming over the recommended amount of alcohol units, we can provide you with the help and support you may require to overcome your negative relationship with alcohol.

Here at Cassiobury Court, we regularly provide rehabilitation treatment to individuals that have sadly become reliant on and addicted to alcohol.

Through the employment of our detoxification and rehabilitation programmes, many of our clients have gone on to maintain a life of sobriety, free from the shackles of their addictions.


Contact Us Today

To find out more about our rehabilitation programmes, or to express your concerns regarding your relationship with alcohol with us, please call us on 01923 369 161.

John Gillen

John Gillen - Author Last updated: 3rd April 2023

John Gillen is a leading addiction treatment expert with over 15 years of experience providing evidence-based treatment methods for individuals throughout the UK. John also co-authors the book, The Secret Disease of Addiction, which delves into how the addictive mind works and what treatment techniques work best.