Alcohol: introduction

Alcohol problems are a major concern for public health in Scotland. Although drinking in moderation can have beneficial effects for some groups of people, such as protection against coronary heart disease in middle-aged men, excessive alcohol consumption can lead to a range of health and social problems. Short-term problems such as intoxication can lead to risk of injury and is associated with violence and social disorder. Over the longer term, excessive consumption can cause irreversible damage to parts of the body such as the liver and brain. Alcohol can also lead to mental health problems, for example, alcohol dependency and increased risk of suicide. In addition, alcohol is recognised as a contributory factor in many other diseases including cancer, stroke and heart disease. Wider social problems include family disruption, absenteeism from work and financial difficulties. Alcohol problems are estimated to cost Scotland over £3.6 billion (Scottish Government 2016).

The UK government have produced sensible drinking guidelines based on units of alcohol.  The Chief Medical Officers’ guidelines for both men and women is that to keep health risks from alcohol to a low level it is safest not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis.

Section updates:

  • The last update of this section was completed in December 2016.
  • The next update is due to be carried out by end June 2017.