Moderation by numbers: 2-3-4

Based on available scientific evidence and references provided by public health authorities, it is accepted that low-risk consumption means that:

Drinking a little more than that, every now and then, can happen. On a special occasion, for example, women may have 3 drinks and men, 
4 drinks, provided, of course, that such “special occasions” don’t occur too frequently. That’s the 3-4 part.


Why the difference between men and women?

Alcohol has a greater effect on women. For exactly the same weight and the same amount of alcohol drunk as a man, a woman will have a higher concentration of alcohol in her body tissues due to less body water and a lower amount of ADH, the enzyme that helps break down alcohol in the stomach.



There are situations in which you should not drink any alcohol:

0 - When below legal drinking age

The low-risk drinking guidelines are designed for adults and not for minors who cannot handle alcohol as well as adults. They often weigh less and have less water in their bodies to dilute the alcohol; they have fewer of the enzymes that help the liver eliminate alcohol; and the brain - under development - is more vulnerable to damage by alcohol. Drinking at this time of physical and emotional change – particularly heavy drinking — could have long-term, negative physical and psychological consequences For these reasons, there is legal drinking age in place designed to protect growing young people from harm, as their bodies, brains and judgment are still developing. . Families should be aware and understand the laws about these legal age limits and how they apply to drinking inside and outside the home.


0 - During pregnancy and breastfeeding

If you drink when you’re pregnant, alcohol from your blood crosses the placenta and enters the baby’s blood. As the foetus is still developing it takes longer for its liver to break down the alcohol, potentially exposing its organs and tissues to alcohol. As no threshold of safe drinking when pregnant has been established, the best advice if pregnant or planning to conceive is not to drink.

Alcohol in the mother’s bloodstream passes into breast milk and can cause poor feeding, irritability and sleep disturbance. Alcohol clears from a mother’s milk at the rate of around one drink every two hours. So it is best to avoid alcohol before breastfeeding, or to plan ahead and express milk if drinking alcohol later.

0 - When driving a car, motorbike or operating machinery

Because alcohol goes into your blood and brain, it affects your reactions very quickly: your reflexes slow down, your field of vision narrows and you underestimate hazards and risks, slowing your “thinking distance”. That’s why drink drive limits exist, measured by the content of alcohol in your blood (blood alcohol content or BAC, measured in grams of ethanol per liter of blood).

On average, each drink increases your BAC by 0.2 to 0.3g/l – so you reach the legal limit rapidly which is at 0.5 g/l in most EU countries and much less for novice drivers).

0 - When using drugs / medicine

People on medication should be extra cautious and check with their doctor or pharmacist to see whether alcohol is contraindicated. When taken in combination with certain medications, particularly those commonly prescribed for epilepsy, high blood pressure and the common cold, alcohol can cause dizziness and drowsiness. Mixing alcohol with medication for rheumatism, arthritis, pain, infection and depression can cause serious physical and psychological problems.  Alcohol can also increase the sedative effect of benzodiazepines and other drugs, increasing the danger of falling.


0 - Alcohol dependence

You should not drink every day and that’s another reason for o. Not being able to abstain from time to time could be a sign of alcohol dependence.

Regular heavy drinking - even if you don’t feel drunk! - has short and long term physical and psychological risks.  It is important to stop drinking alcohol altogether if:

·       If you have had severe problems with alcohol previously.

·       If due to alcohol you have had problems at home or at work.

·       If you tried to cut down your consumption and were not successful.

·       If you notice that other people express concern about your drinking.

·       If you feel guilty about your drinking.

·       If you get the shakes and/or nausea in the morning.

·       If you regularly take an alcoholic drink first thing in the morning.

·       If you have a health problem that could be made worse by alcohol e.g. liver disease, diabetes, hypertension.


If you have doubts on where you are about your alcohol consumption, take the “AUDIT self-reported test” (WHO)