Don't Bottle It Up

Frequently Asked Questions If you have a question that you'd like answered, contact us on

You can read some answers to the most commonly asked questions here. If you have a question that you’d like answered, contact us on







Am I drinking too much? How do I know if it is a problem?
As a general rule, women who drink more than two to three units (one large glass of 12% wine) and men who drink more than three to four units (two pints of 4% lager) in a single session are exposing themselves to risk.

The best way to find out if you are drinking too much is to take the DontBottleItUp alcohol test. It takes less than two minutes and you’ll get personalised advice about how risky your drinking is, how you can cut down and where you can support should you need it. 

How can I cut down my drinking?
The best way to work out how you can cut down is to take the DontBottleItUp alcohol test.  It takes less than two minutes and, once you know how drinking your risky is, you can make a plan that works for you and then print or email it to yourself, so that you can make sure you stay on track. 

If you have an iPhone or iPad, you could also download DrinkCoach, an app which helps you to track and change your drinking. 

Remember if you are alcohol dependent, then stopping suddenly or cutting down drastically is not safe without the right support plan agreed with a medical professional or alcohol specialist worker.

How can I sober up quickly?
Contrary to popular belief, showers, greasy fry-ups and coffee can’t sober you up.  Alcohol takes a certain amount of time to go through your body and so even if you drank the night before, you may still be under the influence the next day.  This is why it is never safe to drink and drive

A healthy liver takes one hour to process one unit of alcohol (that’s one single (25ml) shot of 40% spirits or a small glass of 12% wine).  A liver that has already been damaged can take substantially longer to process one unit.  So whilst food and water may help to ease the symptoms of your hangover, time is the only thing that really sobers you up.

Am I an alcoholic?
Some people use the phrase “alcoholic”; others talk about “alcohol dependence.”  Whatever you choose to call it, drinking at High Risk levels is associated with negative effects on your physical and mental health and well-being, such as alcohol dependence. 

Alcohol dependence syndrome—a condition that affects 4% of adults in the UK—covers a range of symptoms, including:

  • Alcohol cravings, particularly when you wake up.
  • Increasing tolerance of alcohol meaning you have to drink more to get the desired effect.  The more you drink, the more used to process alcohol your body becomes and the higher your body’s tolerance of alcohol becomes.
  • Withdrawal symptoms when you haven’t been drinking, like sweating, nausea and tremors, and drinking to relieve these symptoms.
  • Finding you are preoccupied with where the next drink will come from, and planning your day around alcohol.
  • Drinking in spite of negative consequences in your personal and professional life. 

Dependent drinking is associated with reduced life expectancy, difficulties with relationships and work, and deteriorating health and well-being. 

If you haven’t already done the DontBottleItUp alcohol test, why not take two minutes now? 

If you have taken the test and scored as High Risk/possibly dependent, we strongly recommend that you talk to a health professional.

Where can I get support?
You can find out where to get face-to-face support by completing the DontBottleItUp alcohol test now and, if you are drinking at a level where you need support, you can enter your postcode to find your nearest option.  Alternatively, you can visit your GP or phone Drinkline 24/7 on 0800 917 8282, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

What will happen when I go to an alcohol service?  What do they offer?
When you go to an alcohol service, a specialist worker will meet with you and ask you some questions about your drinking and your life in general to get a clearer picture of what help you might need.  This initial meeting is often called a “triage” or “initial assessment.”  You will then have a fuller assessment to take a closer look at your drinking, what changes you’d like to make and begin planning how you might make those changes.  This is typically called a “comprehensive assessment” and is the beginning of you and your worker creating an agreed “care plan” for you i.e. what steps you and your worker will take to support you in making changes and maintaining them.

Is giving up alcohol completely the only answer?
Ultimately whether you want to cut down or give up completely is your decision.  It will depend on what you think is best for your health and well-being.  For some, a period of time off alcohol (also known as “abstinence”) is the best way to reflect on their relationship with it.  Other people, particularly those who have been alcohol dependent, do decide to become abstinent long-term.

What are the signs of alcohol withdrawal?
There are multiple signs of alcohol withdrawal. Commonly, when someone who is alcohol dependent drops their alcohol consumption rapidly, they experience the following:

  • sweating
  • vomiting and nausea
  • tremors
  • anxiety
  • agitation

In cases of severe withdrawals, people can experience seizures, hallucinations (visual, auditory i.e. sound and tactile i.e. touch) and something called “Delirium Tremens” (also known as “the DTs”), which is a combination of these withdrawal symptoms, such as agitation, disorientation and hallucinations, all happening at the same time. 

What should I do if I experience alcohol withdrawal?
If you notice you are getting withdrawal symptoms when you drink less than normal, you should seek emergency healthcare at A&E immediately. 

I’ve cut down my drinking and am craving sugar.  Is this normal?
When people who are dependent on alcohol have been detoxed, it is common for them to crave sugary foods and drinks, like fruit squashes, fruit juice and chocolate.  Dependent drinkers are often poorly nourished but have been consuming huge numbers of calories through drink, so their body continues to crave a high calorie intake.

If you are not dependently drinking, cravings for sugar could be your body adjusting to changes in your diet.  People have natural rhythms and patterns that the body gets used to, such as how it digests and how it produces insulin. If you're removing 500 calories of alcohol with a high Glycemic Index (GI) from your diet, it's likely that you body will crave an alternative, hence the sugar cravings.

I’ve cut down on my drinking and am feeling tired and sluggish. What does this mean?
What were your energy levels like before you cut down? 
Are you tired all day or just at certain times?

When you were drinking, you probably looked forward to your trip to the pub or the fridge.  You may have felt excited about having a drink and everything that can go with it, like food, friends, and “me time.”  Studies show that the anticipation of the act of drinking is a powerful psychological sensation.  This anticipation itself probably made you feel energised. 
The amount of sugar and calories in the drinks you drank might also be a factor, as they also gave you a rush, creating the perception of high energy.  You'll probably have a rose-tinted bias which makes you remember the “energy” drinking seemed to give you rather than the fatigue you felt the morning after.

Find alternative fun activities to replace your drinking.  For those who are lacking in energy, exercise is key and it will probably help you sleep as well.

Alcohol is affecting my sleep.  Why?  What can I do about it?
Most people find that their sleep improves when they cut down their alcohol consumption.  Alcohol is a psychoactive substance which affects your sleep.  So when you cut down, you're experiencing how your body’s natural responses … zzzzzzzzzz!

When cutting down, some people have trouble sleeping at the start.  Drinking smaller amounts of alcohol (say under five units or around two medium glasses of 12% wine) in the hours before bed has a sedative effect.  Biologically and behaviourally, you may be conditioned to that stimulus and when you remove the alcohol, your sleeping pattern is disrupted.  Don’t worry; this will pass as time goes by.

If you find you are still struggling to sleep after a few weeks, this could be for a number of reasons and it would be a good idea to see your doctor. 


What is a unit?
A unit is not the same as a drink.  Most alcoholic drinks contain more than one unit.  The number of units in a drink is determined by the size of the drink and how strong (i.e. alcoholic) it is.  For example, a small glass (125ml) of 121% wine is one unit, a medium glass (175ml) of 12% wine is two units and a large glass (250ml) of 12% wine is three units.

One litre of an alcoholic drink contains the same number of units as its Alcohol By Volume (ABV) i.e. one litre of 40% vodka has 40 units.

What are the safe unit limits for men and women?
Drinking is never risk-free.  The government advises that women do not drink more than 2-3 units a day and that men do not drink more than 3-4 units a day.  Generally speaking, anything more than one large glass of 12% wine in a day puts you at risk of health harms.  It is also advised that you take at least two days off from alcohol.  Do you know what a binge is?  Find out more.

What is ABV?
Alcohol By Volume (ABV) is a standard measure of how much alcohol is in an alcoholic drink expressed as a percentage i.e. 40% ABV vodka is 40% alcohol.

Why are the daily unit limits lower for women?
The advised unit limits are lower for women than for men because women have different amounts of fat, muscle and water in their bodies than men. Women’s bodies are around 52% water compared to men’s which are around 62%.  This affects the way women and men’s bodies cope with alcohol.  As a result, women are more likely to develop health problems, such as liver disease, at lower levels of alcohol consumption than men even if they are the same size.

What is binge drinking?
A “binge” is any time you drink more than double the recommended daily unit limits in one day.  So, that’s any occasion that a woman drinks six or more units, say, two large glasses of 12% wine, or a man drinks eight or more units, say, three pints of 5% lager.  Of course, this is just generally speaking as everyone has different levels of tolerance and the speed of drinking in a session varies according to mood, how thirsty you are and the social situation. 

Bingeing often involves drinking large amounts of alcohol over a short period of time.  Drinking large amounts of alcohol (anything more than two large glasses of 12% wine) quickly means that your body doesn’t have time to process it and the amount of alcohol in your blood (your “Blood Alcohol Concentration”) remains high.  Drinking the same amount over several hours with food will not have the same effect on your BAC but will still effect your health.  Find out more about health harms

Does alcohol cause depression?
Alcohol is a depressant, and is strongly connected to the development and persistence of depressive illnesses.  It is important, however, to look at the other contributing factors to a depressive illness related to alcohol.
When you reduce your alcohol consumption, you might find yourself feeling more cheerful, this could be due to reducing your alcohol intake or other factors, such getting more exercise, sleeping better and other things that give you a boost that you might not have otherwise done, such as more exercise, spending quality time with friends and family, and achieving other important goals.

Why do some people react differently to alcohol than others?
What effect alcohol has on your body depends on a number of things.  There are several processes that happen to alcohol when it enters your body, and it’s these processes that determine what effect alcohol has.

A key process is absorption.  How quickly your body absorbs the alcohol you consume depends on:

  • whether you’ve eaten or not
  • what foods you have eaten, if any
  • whether the drinks you are drinking are carbonated.

Eating before and while you are drinking is a wise decision as it slows your absorption of alcohol, meaning you don’t get as drunk as quickly.

Distribution is another factor.  Alcohol is distributed throughout the water in the body.  Since women have more fat in their system than water, alcohol is literally more concentrated and it takes longer to break down.  Find out more

There is a special enzyme in your body that naturally breaks down alcohol.  People produce this enzyme in different amounts depending on how frequently they are drinking.  A regular drinker will produce more of the enzyme and can therefore process alcohol more quickly than a less regular drinker.  When people require increasing amounts of alcohol to get drunk, this indicates that their body is responding to excessive alcohol consumption by producing more and more of the enzyme which therefore increases their tolerance.

Does alcohol make you fat?
The government advises that men and women do not drink more than 14 units per week, with at least two days alcohol free. The suggested daily calorie limit for an average man is 2500 and for an average woman is 2000 (this can vary depending on age, metabolism and levels of physical activity).  Did you know that there are almost 200 calories in a large glass of wine and 250 calories in a pint of 5% beer?  That means a pint of beer is the calorific equivalent on one large slice of pizza!  Drink four pints of beer and you’ve consumed around 1000 “empty” calories.  These calories are called “empty” because they have little or no nutritional value but still contribute towards weight gain.  Sugary mixers, such as coke and lemonade, contain calories too and so remember to add at least 50 calories for a regular “shot” of these.  

On top of the calories in the drinks you drink, drinking reduces your self-control making it easier to over-indulge with a kebab (around 1,000 calories) on the way home or a fried breakfast (anything between 600 and 1000 calories) the next day …

Find out how many calories are in the drinks you drink in less than two minutes by taking our DontBottleItUp alcohol test.

Does eating before drinking makes it less harmful?
Eating before you drink will slow down the absorption of alcohol.  The alcohol still needs to be processed.  Eating before you drink is a good idea, especially proteins and carbohydrates, is a good way to delay the effects of drunkenness.  However if you drink a lot of alcohol, you will still get drunk and you still expose yourself to all the related health harms.

Red wine is good for you, right?
Small amounts of alcohol, no more than one unit, can be good for your heart if you are at risk of heart disease, that is, only if you are a man over 40 or a post-menopausal woman.  Research suggests that men or women who fall into that category and who drink no more than one unit a day, that’s a small glass of 12% wine, have a lower risk of heart attack, chronic heart trouble and sudden coronary death than those drinking more or those who do not drink at all.  Drinking more than one unit a day does not, however, provide more protection; in fact, this may raise your blood pressure and cause extra health problems.


How much can I drink safely?
Drinking is never risk-free.  Even drinking relatively small amounts of alcohol carries risk.  Drinking one large glass of wine per day can double your chances of getting certain cancers and liver cirrhosis.  Find out more about the risks.   You can reduce the risks by sticking within the advised unit limits.

What affect does alcohol have on your health?  What are the risks?
Alcohol affects all the parts and systems of your body, and it plays a role in more than sixty different medical conditions. 

The best way to find out if your drinking is risky is to take the DontBottleItUp alcohol test.

If you are regularly drinking above the advised unit limits, you might have already experienced, or may experience in the future, some problems linked to alcohol, such as:

  • low energy
  • weight gain
  • memory loss
  • poor sleeping or insomnia
  • relationship issues
  • sexual difficulties
  • injury

In the long-term, drinking above the advised limits raises the risk of:

  • cancer
  • alcohol dependence
  • high blood pressure
  • liver disease
  • stroke

Regularly drinking just over the advised unit limits carries the following risks:

  • Men are up to 2.5 times, and women are up to 1.7 times, more likely to get mouth, neck and throat cancer.
  • Women are 1.2 times more likely to get breast cancer.
  • Men are twice as, and women are 1.7 times more, likely to develop liver cirrhosis.
  • Men are 1.8 times, and women are 1.3 times, more likely to develop high blood pressure.

Regularly drinking twice the advised unit limits carries even greater risks:

  • You are 3 to 5 times more likely to get mouth, neck and throat cancer.
  • You are 3 to 10 times more likely to develop liver cirrhosis.
  • Women are 50% more likely to get breast cancer.
  • Men are 4 times, and women are at least twice, as likely to develop high blood pressure.
  • You are twice as likely to suffer from irregular heartbeat.


Is it safe to stop drinking suddenly?
It is only safe to stop drinking suddenly if you do not suffer from any withdrawal symptoms

If you do suffer from withdrawal symptoms, then before you stop drinking, you should discuss your drinking with your GP or an alcohol specialist.  If you are alcohol dependent, stopping suddenly can have serious health consequences.

How much can I drink and still drive safely? 
We can’t tell you how much alcohol you can drink and remain within the strict drink-driving limit.  How alcohol affects your body depends on your weight, age, sex, metabolism, what you have drunk and how much, what you’ve eaten and how stressed you are.  Even small amounts of alcohol can affect your ability to drive safely, so you should never drink and drive.

Alcohol affects different people in different ways depending on:

  • whether you’re male or female
  • your age
  • your weight
  • whether you’ve eaten recently
  • the type of alcohol you’re drinking

Alcohol depresses your central nervous system, which in turn reduces your coordination; slows your reactions; impairs your vision, especially your ability to judge speed and distance; and makes you tired.  Alcohol also has a “disinhibiting” effect.  This means that it causes people to lose inhibitions that they would have when sober, such as taking more risks when driving.

Is it OK to drink when you are pregnant?
It is best to avoid drinking all together when trying to get pregnant or during the first three months of pregnancy.  No alcohol = no risk to you or your baby. 

Drinking, even small amounts of alcohol, during conception and pregnancy exposes your baby to unnecessary risk.  Whatever a pregnant mother drinks, their baby drinks too.  Babies cannot process alcohol as fast as the mother can, meaning that the baby is exposed to more alcohol for longer.  Drinking more than 1-2 units, especially in the first three months of pregnancy, can:

  • damage developing organs, such as the heart and kidneys
  • damage the nervous system of your baby
  • increase your risk of having a miscarriage.  Each year, over 9,000 women are admitted for miscarriages caused by alcohol.
  • In more severe cases, alcohol can put unborn babies at risk of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).  There is no cure for this life-long condition and the baby could present a range of symptoms, including;
  • low birth weight with a possible impact on their growth and long-term development
  • learning/Behavioural difficulties, such as poor memory, a short attention span and hyperactivity
  • difficulties with their eyesight or hearing
  • facial deformities, such as small eyes or a cleft palate
  • higher risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS or “cot death”)


Is it OK to drink when breastfeeding?
Alcohol passes through your body and into your breast milk.  Regularly drinking while breastfeeding can affect your baby in the following ways:

  • the smell of the alcohol in your milk may put them off feeding
  • the alcohol may make them too sleepy to feed
  • the alcohol can cause digestive and sleep problems

Becoming a mother can be stressful—the new routines, the sleepless nights, the affect on your relationships, the hormones—and it can be tempting to use alcohol to relax.  Drinking can, however, leave you feeling more irritable and you may wind up feel guilty about drinking in the first place.  Speak to your health visitor or GP about what else you can do to relieve stress and feel better.

If you do choose to drink whilst breastfeeding, say for a special occasion, you can express milk in advance and avoid breastfeeding for at least two to three hours after your last drink.  Remember a healthy body takes one hour to process one unit, so be sure that you leave more than enough time for your body to have processed the alcohol before breastfeeding.


I’m worried that my friend or family member is drinking too much.  What can I do?
It can be really difficult when a loved one is drinking too much.  It can feel like you are dealing with two different people: the drunk one and the sober one.  It is a big step for someone to recognise that they need to cut down and to take steps to do it. 

If you decide to raise it with them, choose the right time, like when you are alone together and having a heart-to-heart or when they bring up the topic themselves.  It’s not a good idea to attempt a discussion about their drinking when they are actually drunk, as they may get angry or forget that the conversation even happened.   Be sensitive and empathetic; avoid labeling them with unhelpful language, like “alcoholic” or “problem,” which will only put them on the defensive.  Ask them what they think about their drinking rather than telling them it is a problem.  You’ll have to be patient as it can take some time and a few conversations for someone to commit to changing.  No matter how worried you are, remember that it’s their decision to change not yours.  Don’t try to act as their counsellor or sole support.  Whilst you can help them start thinking about their drinking, the best person for them to talk to is their GP or an alcohol specialist worker.  Find out about support options for them
Look after yourself and your own needs too.  You don’t, and can’t, carry the burden or feel responsible for their decision to keep drinking.  Find out about Support groups and helplines.


There’s something wrong with the website.  How can I report this?
To report any issues with the website, email, so we can work to resolve it and let you know when we have.

Is the information I share on DontBottleItUp treated confidentially?
Read our detailed Confidentiality Policy

Who is behind DontBottleItUp?
DontBottleItUp is a site created by Haringey Advisory Group on Alcohol (HAGA), Haringey’s local community alcohol service, which supports people affected by alcohol misuse.  Find out more.

I have a question or comment about the website.  How can I get in contact?
We’d love to hear from you and welcome any feedback.  If you’d like to share any feedback or ask us a question, please feel free to email