Alcohol and Drugs

Monday, September 22nd, 2014 No Commented
Categorized Under: Drugs, Health care

Alcohol – a Good Servant and a Bad Master

Alcohol is the most widely used and abused drug among Irish men and is a major risk factor for ill-health and premature death. Alcohol-related problems are epidemic in Irish society, as a weekend visit to an accident and emergency department in any Irish hospital will testify. Problems associated with drinking alcohol include increased numbers of accidents and injuries; increased violence; increased absenteeism from work; a risk of suffocation through choking on one’s own vomit; alcohol poisoning, which is potentially fatal; and an association with many physical and mental health disorders, including depression and suicide.

There is no doubt that some men drink more when they are under stress. However, using alcohol as a means to de-stress may only give temporary relief of symptoms, followed the next day by a worsening of the stress feelings – one step forwards and two steps back! Using alcohol as a stress buster can make you more likely to become dependent on alcohol.

There can undoubtedly be significant health and social benefits to low-dose alcohol, if drunk by the right person at the right time in the right amount. But it is very much a case of‘less is more’.

How to Calculate the Number of Units in a Drink

The system of‘units’ of alcohol in drink was thought up years ago as a means of estimating the amount of alcohol in different drinks so as to work out how much alcohol someone is consuming. The strength of drink is measured as ‘ABV, which means alcohol by volume.

The most accurate way to calculate the number of units in an alcoholic drink is to look at the percentage of alcohol by volume (% ABV) of a drink. This equals the number of units of alcohol in 1 litre of that drink. For example, wine with 12 per cent ABV has 12 units of alcohol in a litre of wine, so if you drink half a litre of wine (500 mls), which is four small glasses, then you have had 6 units of alcohol.

Ordinary strength beer, at 4 per cent ABV, has 4 units of alcohol in a litre, so if you drink half a litre, which is just under a pint, then you will have had 2 units of alcohol. Strong beer, at 6 per cent ABV, has 6 units in a litre, so a half litre of this equates to 3 units. So you can see that the number of units of alcohol can vary widely from beer to beer, depending on the ABV.

One unit of alcohol is about equal to:

  • A half pint of ordinary strength beer (3-4% ABV) or
  • A small pub measure of spirits (40% ABV) or
  • A standard pub measure (50 mls) of sherry or port (20% ABV)

Calculating the number of units of alcohol in a drink isn’t rocket science and certainly doesn’t require a degree in maths.