Binge drinking usually refers to drinking lots of alcohol in a short space of time or drinking to get drunk.
In the UK, binge drinking is drinking more than:
- 8 units of alcohol in a single session for men
- 6 units of alcohol in a single session for women
- 6 units is 2 pints of 5% strength beer or 2 large (250ml) glasses of 12% wine
- 8 units is 5 bottles (330ml) of 5% strength beer or 5 small (125ml) glasses of 13% wine
For more examples, use Alcohol Change's unit calculator.
This is not an exact definition for binge drinking that applies to everyone, as tolerance to alcohol can vary from person to person.
The speed of drinking in a session can also alter alcohol's effects.
Drinking too much, too quickly on a single occasion can increase your risk of:
- accidents resulting in injury, causing death in some cases
- misjudging risky situations
- losing self-control, like having unprotected sex
How to reduce your risk
To reduce your health risk from binge drinking, try to:
- limit how much you drink on any single occasion
- drink more slowly
- drink with food
- alternate with water or non-alcoholic drinks
- plan ahead to avoid problems, such as making sure you can get home safely or having people you trust with you
Keeping track of your drinking is even more important if you're out in risky or unfamiliar circumstances.
You can be at risk from others, and may not be able to look after your friends.
You can easily lose control of what you do or say and may make risky decisions, thinking you're invulnerable.
How alcohol affects you drink by drink
Below is a drink-by-drink guide, based on a standard (175ml) 13% volume glass of white wine and 4% strength pint of lager, showing how quickly alcohol can affect your mind and body.
1 glass of white wine or a pint of lager (just over 2 units):
- You're talkative and feel relaxed.
- Your self-confidence increases.
- Driving ability is already impaired, which is why it's best to drink no alcohol if you're driving.
2 glasses of white wine or 2 pints of lager (just over 4 units):
- Your blood flow increases.
- You feel less inhibited and your attention span is shorter.
- You start dehydrating, one of the causes of a hangover.
3 glasses of white wine or 3 pints of lager (just under 7 units):
- Your reaction time is slower.
- Your liver has to work harder.
- Your sex drive may increase, while your judgement may decrease.
4 glasses of white wine or 4 pints of lager (just over 9 units):
- You're easily confused.
- You're noticeably emotional.
- Your sex drive could now decrease and you may become less capable.
Bear in mind that some people, including women, young people and those with smaller builds, may experience the effects after drinking smaller amounts of alcohol.
If you find you have become tolerant to the effects of alcohol, you may be at risk of health problems.
How to reduce your risk from alcohol
To keep health risks from alcohol to a low level if you drink most weeks:
- men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis
- spread your drinking over 3 or more days if you regularly drink as much as 14 units a week
- if you want to cut down, try to have several drink-free days each week
Fourteen units is equivalent to 6 pints of 4% beer or 6 glasses (175ml) of 13% wine.
Page last reviewed: 15 February 2019
Next review due: 15 February 2022