Is it safe to drink every night?

Post-work drinks with work colleagues. A glass of wine with dinner. Many people who would not consider themselves to have a problem with alcohol include a drink as part of their evening routine – and 6% of Britons drink every day.

Is this 6% putting their health at risk, even if they stay within government guidelines for recommended alcohol intake? Is there a consensus on how often and how much we can drink safely?

We’re going to dive into the research, guidelines and national conversations around the safe consumption of alcohol – where we will find that the answers are less conclusive than you would expect.

What are the recommended safe drinking limits?

The NHS recommends no more than 14 units a week,2 spread over three days or more. Unlike many other countries, they don’t recommend a specific number of drink-free days in their guidelines – but they do offer a ‘drink-free days’ app as a tool for people who want to cut down.

National guidelines differ between countries – even what we consider a unit of alcohol is not the same across jurisdictions. Poland recommends at most 4 units a day with at least two alcohol-free days – that’s 20 units a week (and Polish units are bigger – at 8g of alcohol, the UK’s unit measurement is one of the smallest in Europe). The Netherlands recommends ‘Drink no alcohol or at least not more than one glass per day’. Some countries give different recommendations for men and women; others do not.

The reasons that these guidelines differ between countries are often quite arbitrary. Canadian guidelines are based on research suggesting that drinking small amounts of alcohol has a protective effect on health – even though, as we will touch on later, this research is contested. Other countries, such as Australia, ‘chose a threshold for low risk as being a one-in-100 risk of dying from alcohol-related causes – as this is approximately the same level of risk associated with driving a car.’4

With so much variation between guidelines and no consensus on safe alcohol consumption between countries, it’s difficult to say where the line between safe and unsafe drinking lies.


Is it safer not to drink at all? What does science say?

Teetotalism is on the rise – particularly among young people. Nearly a third of 16-24 year-olds don’t drink at all.

In the growing health and wellness space, abstaining from alcohol is a recurring topic. Popular wellness guru Andrew Huberman claims that ‘the scientific consensus is that zero alcohol consumption is the healthiest option.’

However, as seen from the differences between national guidelines, there are no conclusive, evidence-based recommendations on safe drinking levels. A 2020 study on safe alcohol consumption in the Journal of Internal Medicine stated that ‘alcohol consumption remains a topic of great interest to scientists, policymakers and the general public, yet the quality of evidence supporting its health risks and benefits has not improved markedly in five decades.

It is frequently claimed that small quantities of alcohol are healthy and good for the heart. To back up this claim, the ‘J-shaped curve’ study is often cited. According to the study, people who consume small amounts of alcohol have less all-cause mortality than people who do not drink at all, implying a health-protecting quality to consuming alcohol in small quantities. However, these findings have been challenged by other studies that point out that a significant proportion of abstainers are people who were driven to quit drinking because it had already damaged their health, having already gone through alcoholism treatment or quit by themselves, and come to the decision to abstain permanently. This is potentially why the abstainer category looks like it has poorer health outcomes. A more recent study found no benefit whatsoever10 to alcohol consumed in moderation (but relatively little harm in consuming at this level also).

What are the risks of exceeding recommended drinking limits?

Rather than scrutinising recommended limits, which can be arbitrary and not fully grounded in science, looking at drinking on a continuum can be far more useful.

Alcohol addiction is associated with a whole host of diseases. The liver, brain, heart and pancreas can all suffer severe damage, the risk of many forms of cancer is elevated, and conditions such as hypertension, cardiomyopathy and neurological impairments all become more likely. In addition to physical health, mental health conditions can be exacerbated or, in some cases, caused by alcohol misuse.

Negative health effects increase linearly based on consumption – so the more alcohol you consume and the more frequently you consume it, the more at risk you are. National guidelines recognise this and attempt to set a realistic limit that most people will not struggle to stick to – but these limits are, in most cases, educated guesses.

So, is it safe to drink every day?

The science on how much or how little alcohol to consume is inconclusive. While guidelines between countries differ, they all point to a similar level, with a bit of variance – usually around two drinks a day, with a few drink-free days built into the week, and a recommendation to spread these drinks out over a week.

Safe consumption of alcohol can be viewed in two ways – how much alcohol is dangerous for our health and the level at which we’re in control of our drinking.

For people with a healthy relationship with alcohol, only the former is really relevant. For people with alcoholism, both are relevant – and the answer for them is most likely to be no amount of alcohol is safe to consume.

Considering the potential risks tied to consuming alcohol every evening, people need to evaluate their drinking patterns critically. Many find it transformative to reconsider alcohol’s place in their lives and seek alternative ways to unwind and alleviate stress.

What to do if you’re concerned about your consumption – alcohol addiction treatment

Although occasional, moderate use of alcohol might integrate seamlessly into a well-rounded lifestyle for some, it’s essential to remain vigilant about the fine line separating a casual habit from potential dependency. For individuals grappling with concerns about their alcohol use or those already facing challenges, our alcohol detox centre can help.

Reaching out for assistance to an alcoholism rehab is a pivotal step towards regaining dominion over your health. Our alcohol detox treatment centres offer the necessary support and guidance for the treatment of alcoholism, including alcohol detox and rehab services, to steer you through the recovery process and beyond.

Prioritising your health and well-being is of utmost importance. Getting alcohol help isn’t merely about sidestepping adverse outcomes; it’s about embracing a life filled with more depth, vibrancy, and fulfilment.

(Click here to see works cited)

  • (n.d.). Part Six: Alcohol consumption | YouGov. [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 Jan. 2024].
  • NHS (2021). Drink less – Better Health. [online] Available at:
  • (2022). National low-risk drinking recommendations (or drinking guidelines) and standard units | Knowledge for policy. [online] Available at:
  • Nogrady, B. (2023). Glass too full? Why safe drinking guidelines vary between countries. The Guardian. [online] 14 Jan. Available at:
  • Alcohol Change UK. (n.d.). Why are more young people going teetotal? [online] Available at:
    6 – (n.d.). Alcohol, Tobacco and Cannabis | Huberman Lab. [online] Available at:
  • Mukamal, K.J. (2020). A safe level of alcohol consumption: the right answer demands the right question. Journal of Internal Medicine, 288(5), pp.550–559. doi:
  • Tsai, M.-K., Gao, W. and Wen, C. (2023). The relationship between alcohol consumption and health: J-shaped or less is more? BMC Medicine, 21(1). doi:
  • CHIKRITZHS, T., FILLMORE, K. and STOCKWELL, T. (2009). A healthy dose of scepticism: Four good reasons to think again about protective effects of alcohol on coronary heart disease. Drug and Alcohol Review, 28(4), pp.441–444. doi:
  • Zhao, J., Stockwell, T., Naimi, T., Churchill, S., Clay, J. and Sherk, A. (2023). Association Between Daily Alcohol Intake and Risk of All-Cause Mortality: A Systematic Review and Meta-analyses. JAMA Network Open, [online] 6(3), p.e236185. doi: