05:49am Saturday 04 April 2020

PHA urges ‘freshers’ to be smart and know their alcohol limits

PHA urges ‘freshers’ to be smart and know their alcohol limits

As ‘fresher’s week’ commences, the Public Health Agency (PHA) is encouraging students across Northern Ireland to avoid binge drinking and to know their limits if they do choose to drink alcohol. 

Enjoying new freedoms, at college or university, means taking care of yourself and others and, if you choose to drink, staying within safe alcohol limits.
Owen O’Neill, PHA Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement Manager for drugs and alcohol, said: “Some young people may drink more when they leave home, or join their friends in college or university for the first time. They might think that, as young people, they don’t have to take care with alcohol, but staying within the safe drinking limits is important for everyone who drinks. Excessive and binge drinking can have lasting effects on health, such as damage to the liver, heart, brain and stomach. Drinking too much can also increase the risk of accidents and antisocial behaviour as well as sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancy”.

“We would also strongly advise against drinking games. Although they are regarded as a ‘bit of fun’, in reality they can be very dangerous. As an extreme form of binge drinking, where large quantities of alcohol are consumed in a very short time, drinking games can result in alcohol poisoning, leading to brain damage, coma or death. The PHA encourages students to enjoy their new student life, but urges them to be aware of their alcohol intake and drink responsibly, especially throughout fresher’s week, with the many cheap drink promotions currently available.”

Daily alcohol limits are recommended by the government in order to avoid the risks of excessive and binge drinking in any one session. These are:

No more than 3 to 4 units of alcohol a day and no more than 21 units over the course of the week.

No more than 2 to 3 units of alcohol a day and no more than 14 units over the course of the week.

Examples of units:

  • Can of extra strong lager – 4 units
  • Bottle of lager – 1.5 units
  • Pint of standard lager  – 2.5 units
  • Pint of premium larger – 3 units
  • Small pub bottle of wine – 2.25 units
  • 70cl bottle of wine – 7 to 10 units
  • Standard 275ml of alcopops – 1.5 to 1.8 units
  • 70cl bottle of alcopops – 3.75 to 4.5 units
  • Pub measure of spirits – 1.5 units
  • Pint of cider – 3 units
  • Pint of stout – 2.5 units

If you do choose to drink alcohol:


  • Ever drink and drive
  • Drink on an empty stomach
  • Mix alcohol with other drugs
  • Drink in rounds as this may speed up your drinking
  • Leave your drinks unattended


  • Take sips rather than gulps
  • Alternate each alcoholic drink with a non alcoholic drink e.g. water or a soft drink
  • Set yourself a limit and try to stick to it (refer to daily alcohol limits)
  • Take frequent breaks from drinking to give your body time to recover
  • Tell friends and family where you are going and who you will be with

Remember, that for each unit you drink over the daily limit, the risk to your health increases. It’s important to spread the units throughout the week – you can’t ‘save up’ your units for the weekend or your holiday. It is also important to drink plenty of water, ideally matching the amount of alcohol you have consumed.
So students make smart choices this term – drink sensibly and know your limits!

For further information on sensible drinking and alcohol units visit the Public Health Agency’s website www.knowyourlimits.info

Notes to the editor

Contact PHA the Press Office on 028 9031 1611

  • The PHA takes the lead on the DHSSPS’s New strategic direction for alcohol and drugs 2006–2011.
  • A booklet to help parents talk to their children about alcohol, You, Your Child and Alcohol, is available from GP surgeries, pharmacies, Post Offices and by clicking here

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